A Spanish soldier named Jose Joaquin Moraga and a Spanish priest named Francisco Palou founded Mission San Francisco de Asis on June 29, 1776, a week before John Hancock and others signed the Declaration of Independence three thousand miles away. The first church was built of wood near a creek called Arroyo de Nuestra de los Dolores in October 1776 and a new church was constructed out of adobe bricks a block and a half away in 1791. The popular name for this new church is Mission Dolores and it is the oldest intact structure in the entire city of San Francisco. A new, much larger church was built next door when it became obvious that the original mission church could not handle the number of parishioners in post gold-rush San Francisco. This church was completely destroyed by the earthquake of 1906 but the original mission church with its four feet thick adobe walls received only minor damage.
A new parish church was completed in 1918 and is called Mission Dolores Basilica which has brought on confusion to no end. Some people think the 1918 church is the Mission and the little church next door is just a little gift shop!
There is a tiny gift shop attached to the old Mission and this is where you enter to begin your self-guided tour of the Mission ($5 admission for adults, $3 for seniors). You then enter the old Mission church through a side entrance and go out the other side door to then visit the Basilica next door on the corner of 16th and Dolores Streets. After visiting both churches you then proceed to the rear of the original Mission where you will find a small museum and a beautifully maintained garden cemetery. In the middle of the cemetery there is a statue by the celebrated San Francisco artist Arthur Putnam of Junipero Serra, the Spanish Franciscan priest who founded the first California Missions, leaning over in prayer as he walks through the garden. Tombstones in the cemetery have all Spanish names up till the 1840s and then are mostly Irish up till the end of the century. After that all San Franciscans are buried in Colma just south of the city. The only other cemetery within the city limits of San Francisco today is the San Francisco National Cemetery in the Presidio.
Earlier this year Pope Francis announced that he would canonize Junipero Serra next month in Washington, DC. This brought on a major protest on the steps of Mission Dolores by the Native Lives Matter movement a few months ago. Many Native Americans believe that Serra and other Franciscans tortured and enslaved the California natives in their attempt to teach them the European way of life and to convert them to Catholicism. The Spanish and Mexican colonizers are also blamed for spreading diseases that decimated the native population. In the midst of this controversy fourth graders in public schools throughout California are still being educated on the story of the 21 Missions founded by Serra and his successors and the role they played in the history of Spanish and Mexican California.
Why don’t you drop by Leanne’s website to see what other photographers are doing in Monochrome these days?