The California Missions On-Line Project
Mission San Diego de Alcala
Founded July 16, 1769

Founding of the mission

Mission San Diego de Alcala was founded on July 16, 1769, by Father Junipero Serra, Father-Presidente of the Mission Chain. It was the 1st mission in the 21 mission chain in Alta California and known as the "Mother of the Alta California Missions". It was named for Saint Didacus of Alcala, a name given to the bay 167 years earlier by the Spanish explorer, Sebastian Vizcaino. Father Luis Jayme was left in charge of building the mission when Father Serra left for Monterey to establish the 2nd mission. The church building is 135 feet long and 29 feet high.

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Local Indians

The Yuma Indians were not friendly in the beginning. They did not want these men taking their land. The missionaries were having trouble bringing the Indians into the mission due to the soldiers' treatment of the Indians. Indians slowly began to come to the mission. In 1775 several hundred Indians attacked the Mission. Father Jayme walked towards the attacking Indians saying "Love God, my children". The Indians killed the man who was trying to help them. Father Jayme was the first priest and martyr in California. Many people were killed and the Indians lost the battle. After that night, the Indians were friendlier to the white man. In 1797 there were 565 new Indians added to the mission which brought the total to 1,400 Indians living at the Mission San Diego de Alcala. All of the Indians were given new clothes each year.

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Economy of the mission

The economy at Mission San Diego de Alcala was similar to the other missions in that they planted crops of wheat and corn. They also planted vineyards, and raised cattle and sheep. The agriculture was needed not only to maintain the mission community and the nearby Indians, but was used for trade and served to visitors to the mission. In 1795 a system of aqueducts was begun to bring water to the fields and the mission. By 1797 the mission had 50,000 areas of land growing wheat, barley, corn, and beans. They also grew vineyards of grapes and orchards and vegetables at the mission. They had 20,000 sheep, 10,000 cattle and 1,250 horses in 1797. The Indian women were trained in candle and soap making, weaving, sewing, and cooking. The mission grew slower than most and was not as successful.

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The community
Click here to see a video Inside the Mission Quadrangle
Inlcudes the first cemetery in the State of California.

The City of San Diego grew up around the mission. The mission sits on a hill overlooking the city today. San Diego has grown to be a very large and important city in California.

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After Mexico won its independence from Spain, it found that it could no longer afford to keep the missions running as Spain had done. In 1834, Mexico decided to end the mission system and sell all of the lands. They offered the lands to the Indians who did not want the lands or could not come up with the purchase price. The lands were divided into smaller Ranchos and sold to Mexican citizens who were helpful during the war for independence. After nearly 30 years, the missions were returned to the Catholic Church. Although some of the missions had already been returned to the church, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed an Act declaring that all of the 21 missions in the California mission chain would become the property of the Catholic Church and have remained so since that time. By 1827, the mission had begun to decline. There was no money coming from Mexico or Spain to help the mission. For years weeds grew on the mission land. In 1846 the Mission San Diego de Alcala was given to a Mexican man, Santiago Arguello. When the United States took over California, the mission was used by the military from 1846 to 1862.

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When the Mission San Diego de Alcala was given back to the church, it was in ruins. It wasn't until the 1880's that Father Anthony Ubach began to restore the old mission buildings. He died in 1907 and the restoration stopped. In 1931 an effort was begun to rebuild the mission. Slowly the mission compound was rebuilt.

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Current use

In 1941 the mission once again became a parish church. In 1976, Pope Paul VI designated the mission church as a Minor Basilica, a great honor. Today the mission is still an active parish serving the busy City of San Diego.

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Graphic tour
Click below to see a video Inside the Mission Church
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Mission Quiz

Objective: answer 7 questions correctly. JavaScript required!

1. Who was the founder of Mission San Diego de Alcala?

Fermin Lasuen
Gaspar de Portola
Junipero Serra
Sebastian Vizcaino

2. Mission San Diego de Alcala was founded....?

July 16, 1769
September 21, 1769
April 21, 1782
June 14, 1804

3. What Indian Tribe was in the area of the San Diego de Alcala Mission?


4. Mission San Diego de Alcala is know as...?

King of the Missions
Mother of the Alta California Missions
Princess of the Missions
Queen of the Missions

5. Who did the actual building of the missions?

construction companies
the priests
the soldiers
the local Indians

6. What happened to the missions in 1834?

They opened
The Indians took over

7. Mission San Diego de Alcala was the...?

only church that has been completely rebuilt
only mission without soldiers
first of the California Missions
only mission with a bell tower

8. The water system at the mission was...?

built by soldiers
is on the Navajo reservation
used to irrigate the fields
a complete failure causing a long draught

9. What happened in 1775?

Mission San Diego de Alcala was founded
Missions were taken over by Mexican priests
Indians attacked the mission

10. What did Abraham Lincoln agree to in 1863?

Formally return the Mission lands to the Church
Run for President of the United States
Visit the San Antonio de Padua Mission
force the Indians to leave the Mission

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The Mission Page | The Assessment Page |Main Page

Other San Diego sites:

California Mission Internet Trail

The Spanish Missions of California

California Missions

The Indians of San Diego County - Short description of the four tribal groups found in San Diego County and a bibliography of major sources. By San Diego State University reference librarian Phillip White

The Journal of San Diego History - "Sociopolitical Aspects of the 1775 Revolt at Mission San Diego de Alcala: an Ethnohistorical Approach" by Richard L. Carrico

This project written by Rob Garretson in partial fulfilment of the Master's of Arts Degree from Cal Poly Pomona

Please send questions and/or comments to Mr. Garretson

This page last updated on February 28, 2015