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Footsteps of

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Footsteps of History

The California Missions

San Rafael

Mission San Rafael Arcangel
Founded December 14, 1817
by Father Vicente de Sarria
California Historic Landmark #220

Naming of Mission:

The mission was named for Saint Raphael, the angel of healing

20 miles north of the city of San Francisco in the city of San Rafael

The mission was founded by Father vicente de Sarria on 14 December 1817. At its onset, it was not meant to be a full mission. It was to be an asistencia mission of Mission San Francisco de Asis. They needed a place to treat the sick among the Indians from their mission. They felt the weather was more dry and better in the new mission. Just a few years later on 19 October 1822, the mission was granted full mission status.
The mission struggled with difficulties. There was much tension between the Soldiers, Indians and Padres. It functioned as a mission for just 17 years, but made many conversions, grew crops and raised animals to help it become self-sufficient. San Rafael never did have a quadrangle like the other missions. At first, it wasn't meant to be a full mission, but even later, when full status was given, no quadrangle was built. When a new Senior Padre came around 1831, he had trouble handling the needs of the mission. Father Jose Maria Mercado was known for his impulsive actions and not always making good choices. He mis-judged the intentions of Indians coming toward the mission and attacked them, killing 21 and injuring many. He was then suspended from mission work for a time.
Just two years later, when Mexico ended the Missions in 1834, they offered the land to the Indians, but most either didn't want the land or couldn't afford the price. Thus, most was divided up into smaller ranchos and cold to Mexican citizens. Around 30 years later, the missions returned to the Catholic Church through a proclamation signed by US President Abraham Lincoln. When the Missions were taken from the Church, San Rafael was one of the first to go in 1833. A few Indians remained for a time, but by 1844, all of the mission was virtually abandoned. The ruins of the buildings were sold in 1846. John Fremont also used the deserted mission as his headquarters during the time when California was attempting to become a US Territory.
A priest once again came back to the broken down mission in 1847 and by 1861 a new parish church was built. The remainder of the buildings were removed for progress in the city of San Rafael. About the only thing left of the original mission was one pear tree. Restoration efforts did not begin until 1949 when Msgr. Thomas Kennedy had the chapel re-built. Now the mission replica is next to the newer parish church of St. Raphael.
Contact the Mission:

San Rafael Arcángel
1104 Fifth Avenue
San Rafael, CA 94901
Phone: 415-454-8141
Mission Trivia:
This mission was built in the shape of an "L" instead of in a more normal quadrangle. The long part of the L was about 125 feet long and contained the hospital, some apartments, supply rooms and the mission store. The smaller portion of the L contained the chapel. The current Catholic parish church sits on the same ground where the old mission chapel had been.
Mission Links

An information page on Mission San Rafael Arcangel
More info on the mission
Church and Mission Website
California State Historic Landmark #220

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This page was last updated on 28 June 2012 at 3:30 pm
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