The San Diego mission was the first of twenty-one missions built by the Spanish in Alta California. The Mission San Diego de Alcalá is worth visiting for its history, architecture, bell tower and gardens.

The San Diego Mission and subsequent missions were founded in 1769 by Father Junipero Serra, a Franciscan friar, and served to evangelize the Indians living in the area. Mission San Diego was named in honor of St. Joseph. Didac Alcalá, a 15th century Franciscan missionary. The century.

Today the mission serves as an active parish church and you can tour the building and museum. The San Diego Mission, nicknamed the Mother of Missions, is a National Historic Landmark and a California Historic Landmark.

If you like local history and culture, as well as gardens, this mission is a must see in San Diego.

History of the Mission of San Diego
Architecture of the Mission of San Diego de Alcala
Museum and Gardens of the Mission of San Diego
Basic Information for Visiting the Mission of San Diego de Alcala

History of the Mission San Diego de Alcala

The Spanish sent soldiers and priests to expand the Spanish empire in the New World. In 1769, soldiers led by Gaspar de Portola built the Presidio of San Diego on what is now Presidio Hill.

The priests, led by Father Serra, founded a mission to serve the Spanish colonists and convert the local Kumeyaay people.

In 1774, the mission was moved several miles from its original location to improve the water supply for agricultural activities and to create some distance between the Spanish soldiers and the local population with whom Father Serra sought to establish relations.

In 1775, a Kumeyaian revolt resulted in the burning of the church and other mission buildings. Father Louis Jayme, a native priest, was killed during the rebellion and became the first Christian martyr in Alta California. He was buried for a mission.

Father Serra returned to San Diego to rebuild, and an adobe building was erected. The mission thrives and sustains itself through agriculture and the keeping of cattle, sheep and horses. Vines were also planted and the mission produced wine. Over time, the mission controlled more than 50,000 acres of land.

At the beginning of the 19th century. The mission church was rebuilt in the 19th century and is the church you see today.

In 1818 a subdivision, the Asistencia, was established at Santa Isabel, northeast of San Diego, but nothing remains of the original structure. A chapel was built on this site and consecrated in 1924.

After the Mexican War of Independence, Mexico secularized all Catholic missions in Alta California. With the disappearance of the Franciscan friars, the estate fell into disuse. Mission San Diego was donated by Santiago Arguello through the Rancho Land Grant program.

After the United States took control of California, the San Diego Mission served as a military outpost for several more years. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln returned the mission to the Catholic Church, albeit in ruins. The church rebuilt it and used it as a school for a while.

In 1931 the restoration of the Mission San Diego de Alcalá began, and after its completion in 1941 the mission was consecrated as a parish church. In 1976 Pope Paul VI granted the church the status of minor basilica.

San Diego Mission Architecture

Mission San Diego is a simple adobe structure with whitewashed walls and a clay tile roof. It is the oldest building in the state of California! After parking, pause to admire the simple beauty before heading inside.

Although the present building has been restored, much of the design of the 1813 church remains. What you see today is very similar to what it was all those years ago. The windows of the church are built into the walls and the doors of the church are replicas of the originals.

Services are held in the church daily. In the long chapel is a wooden altar. Some of the floor tiles date from the church of 1813 and some of the statues from the original mission.

The mission buildings were erected around a square courtyard, with a church on one side and other buildings on the other side, such as lodgings, shops, a granary and a smithy.

The four-story bell wall, called the Campanario, is one of the most beautiful parts of the San Diego Mission. It stands 46 feet tall and is topped by a wooden cross. The five missionary bells are arranged in three rows.

The base of the bell tower is original, as are some of the lower walls of the church. The largest of the five bells is a bell cast in 1894 from the original Mater Dolorosa bell and weighs 1,200 pounds. The second largest bell, 1802, weighs 805 pounds. At the top is the Spanish crown.

The clock tower makes for great photos!

San Diego Mission Museum and Gardens

The Mission San Diego Museum is small, but contains historical documents and interesting artifacts. The museum, named for Father Louis Jaime, houses a sculpture, vestments and a copy of President Lincoln’s proclamation returning the mission to the church.

You can also see old farming tools, pottery and photos about the history of the mission. To complete your look at the past, you can also visit the Serra Museum on Presidio Hill, which features exhibits about Father Serra.

A souvenir shop and a bookshop are also available.

The Mission San Diego garden is peaceful and beautiful, though small. The plantation of palms, roses, hibiscus, olives, avocados, citrus fruits, succulents and bougainvilleas invites you to take a stroll. It is said that some trees and plants are very old.

Amidst the plantations, you will see sculptures and memorial crosses made from the original mission tiles. The crosses are memorials to the neophytes who died there. In the garden is a statue of Father Junipero Serra and a statue of St. Joseph, the patron saint of the San Diego expedition.

In the Pietà Garden is a statue of the Pietà, similar to the painting by Michelangelo, which is in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. The art of the cross represents the various stages of Jesus’ death.

This is the site of the oldest European cemetery in California. Also go to the chapel of St. John the Baptist. Bernadine if it is open at the time of your visit. The interior is a mixture of Spanish and Mexican, with some pieces several centuries old.

Basic information for a visit to San Diego Mission

Travel to San Diego Mission

Mission San Diego de Alcala is located in : 10818, San Diego, San Diego, California. From downtown San Diego, the mission is about a 15-minute drive with normal traffic.

If you want to take public transportation, the San Diego Green Trolley Line stops at Mission San Diego.

San Diego Mission Parking

The mission is located at the top of the hill, a short distance from the road. There is a roadside parking lot and we parked in one of those spots.

If you don’t want to walk to the entrance, walk up the driveway and you will find a parking lot directly in front of the entrance, which is also available for parking.

San Diego Mission hours and reception

The church, museum, gift shop, park and gardens will be open from 9:00 am to 4:45 pm. Services are offered daily, with some Masses on Sundays before noon.

Admission to the museum is currently $3 for adults, with discounts for seniors, students and children 11 and under. The fair is free. Before visiting the mission station, check the opening hours and applicable rates.


Visits are usually offered on weekdays, but in special situations where visits may be suspended, the mission website should be consulted. If you plan to take a tour on your own, check with the bookstore to see if there is an audio guide who can give you a good idea of what you are seeing.

Bell Festival

The feast of bells is celebrated on the Sunday corresponding to the 16th. July is the closest month, the anniversary of the founding of the San Diego Mission. It is the only day of the year when all five bells of the mission ring in unison.

The festival includes several days of feasts and other events focusing on Spanish food, music and dance, and traditions such as the blessing of bells. It’s a great time to visit!


Planning to visit San Diego? Also check out our article on Balboa Park Gardens, and our tips for visiting Cabrillo National Monument!

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frequently asked questions

For what reason is the San Diego mission known?


What is San Diego’s mission today?

Today, the Mission is an active Catholic parish in the Diocese of San Diego. The facade is beautiful and the gardens are picturesque. Behind the new church, visitors can see the eroded remains of former makeshift buildings. The mission has a gift shop where you pay a small fee to enter the grounds.

Is there a mission in San Diego?

Mission San Diego de Alcala, the first of 21 Franciscan institutions in California, was founded on 16. July 1769 by Father Junipero Serra on the hill of the Presidio. … Restored in 1931, the mission is open to the public every day from 9am to 4.30pm and includes a museum, souvenir shop, archaeological ruins and beautiful gardens.

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