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The California Missions

Santa Clara

Mission Santa Clara de Asis
Eighth Mission
Founded 12 January 1777
by Father Junipero Serra

Naming of Mission:
Santa Clara de Asis was named for Saint Claire of Assisi, the founder of the Poor Clares order of nuns. This was the first mission named for a woman.
in the city of Santa Clara, south of San Francisco, on the campus of the University of Santa Clara.
Once the San Francisco mission was found, the padres desired to begin another mission further south. This mission was delayed a few months because of Indian uprisings at the San Luis Obispo mission, but ultimately, the Santa Clara de Asis Mission was founded on 12 January 1777 by Father Junipero Serra with the actual ceremony conducted by Father Thomas de la Pena. After about six months, a large group of colonists from Mexico settled in the area. The Fathers were not happy with the arrangement because the neophytes were greatly influenced by "outsiders." Their efforts to keep the pueblo and the mission separate resulted in the cities of Santa Clara (Mission) and San Jose (Pueblo). Many tensions occurred between the two, but much of the trouble ended once a road was built to link the mission and the pueblo. Over 200 local Indians built the road.
The first buildings at the mission were slow in completion as there were few helpers to build them. A Lt. Moraga, Father Thomas de la Pena, a few Indians and some soldiers with their families were all who were there to help build the mission. The completed church was 100 feet long, 44 feet wide and 25 feet high.
The local Indians were helpful and also adapted well to the mission life. They learned trades and other skills which would help them in their lives. Father Jose Viader was also a big factor in the success of the mission, teaching them many things, including music. He even established a mission choir which was well-known throughout the state. Many Indian children died here from an epidemic of measles soon after the Spanish arrived. The people brought the children to the mission to be baptized so they could receive medical help and possibly saved from death. This mission led al the missions in the number of deaths as well as in the number of baptisms.
The mission was among the largest in the chain. They planted crops like the other missions to help them be self-sufficient. They also planted vineyards and had 5,000 head of cattle and 12,000 head of sheep. Residents and visitors alike benefited from the large agriculture programs of the mission. The orchards did well here as did olive trees. The cowhides were sent east to Massachusetts to be made into shoes and other leather goods.
The mission had hard times as far as disasters go. It was abandoned in 1784 because of a large flood. A new mission site was chosen on higher ground and new buildings were erected. The quality of the work from skilled builders and artists helped the new mission buildings to look more professional. However, again, the work was thwarted when in 1818 an earthquake basically destroyed the mission buildings. Once again, the fathers re-built, completely the mission for a third time in 1825.
The mission property was given to the Jesuits in 1851. Father John Nobili was put in the leadership position and founded the University of Santa Clara, which still exists today. The only portion of the original mission left is a section of a garden wall. But the university chapel, which was built in 1929 after the fire of 1926 destroyed the church, was designed as a reproduction of the old mission church. The bell tower at the mission holds the two original bells sent to the mission from Spain by the King These bells are rung every evening at 8:30 as was promised upon receipt of the bells. This was to be in memory of those who had died. The old cemetery for the mission is now the rose garden.
Contact the Mission:
Santa Clara Mission
Mission Santa Clara
Santa Clara University
Santa Clara, CA 95053
Mission Trivia:
There is a cross in front of the church. Actually, this is a cross within a cross. The new cross was built over the old one which dates back to the early days of the mission. There is a small window at the bottom of the cross through which you may look to see the original wooden cross.
This is the only mission to become part of a university. It is also the oldest university in California.
Mission Links:
Information about the Mission
A history page for the mission
A Resource page for the mission

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This page was last updated on 28 June 2012 at 3:12 pm
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