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Explore the Exciting History of San Diego's First Mission

The area that would later become known as San Diego was first explored by Europeans as early as the 1500s when Spanish explorers first began charting the area and making contact with the indigenous people. However, it would not be until the 1700s that the Spanish would begin to settle into the area when they feared Russian colonial expansion would encroach onto their established territories. Besides the military and merchant presence in the colonial world, one of the first professions to settle in the colonies was missionaries who saw it as their duty to convert the local population to Catholicism. In order to do this most effectively as well as provide self sufficiency, numerous missions were constructed in the area modeled after monasteries in Europe. The first of these missions was founded in 1769 by Friar Juniperro Serra and christened Mission San Diego de Alcalá named after the Spanish hermit priest Didacus of Alcalá (San Diego) known for his mission work and later canonized as a Saint by the church. Friar Serra would go on to establish numerous other missions in the Californias, which still remain instantly recognizable today for their iconic steeples known as bell walls.

Tensions between the Spanish and the indigenous tribes would begin to build just a few years after the mission was founded and erupted into a fully fledged uprising in the mid 1770s. A group of about 800 tribespeople ransacked and set fire to the mission killing several Spanish colonists including Father Jayme who became California’s first Catholic martyr. Not to be deterred, the church quickly began to rebuild and buried Jayme beneath the newly constructed church floor and set about creating a better network between other missions in the area. As the soil around the area is extremely difficult to farm, the mission focused on horse and mule breeding and exchanging the animals with other missions for crops and other goods. By the 1780s the mission began to prosper as an average of over 800 people were baptised every year. The mission would leave the hands of the Catholic Church in the mid 1800s. Shortly after the Mexican War of Independence, the newly established Mexican government had a vested interest in keeping as many people as they could to occupy the frontierland. In order to do so the government sold blocks of land known as Ranchos to ex soldiers to live on at drastically reduced prices. While it may seem unfathomable today, the San Diego Mission and indeed a large portion of what would later become the city was sold as one of these Ranchos to ensure the area remained occupied. The mission would change hands again when the United States annexed California into the union and the site would serve the army until 1862 when President Lincoln transferred the ownership back to the Catholic Church. After numerous years of neglect Father Anthony Ubach set about the massive task of restoration in the 1880s.

Due to its historic and cultural importance, San Diego Mission has been designated a national historic landmark and remains an important symbol in the area for perseverance, triumph, and faith. The church continues to be open to all members of the public today for tours or for mass. As you walk around the beautiful grounds it feels as though you are being transported back in time to the days before the city was even dreamed of. Taking a tour of this mission would be the perfect afternoon destination when you are attending one of several Continuing Education Company’s primary care cme conferences in San Diego. There’s certainly plenty of amazing history to explore and a lovely 42 foot high bell wall that would make for a unique photograph.


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