Mission San Rafael Arcangel

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Mission San Rafael Arcangel (1817-1833) - A Spanish mission established as an asistencia (sub-mission) of the Mission San Francisco de Asis in 1817 by Father Vicente De Sarria in present day San Rafael, Marin County, California. Later raised to full mission status in 1823 and associated with the Presidio of San Francisco. Named after the Arcangel Rafael. Secularized in 1833.

Mission San Rafael Arcangel Chapel Replica
Mission San Rafael Arcangel Chapel Interior

The Spanish Period (1769-1821)

Mission San Rafael Arcangel Original Bells

The Spanish period began in California with the building of Mission San Diego de Alcala, and the Presidio of San Diego in 1769. The Spanish Presidio provided a support system for the attached missions that included military troops. The mission provided provided a complete community for the converted native peoples that included agriculture and industry activities as well as religious instruction and services. Typically a very limited military presence was maintained at the missions and the presidio acted as the garrison for the surrounding missions.

Mission San Rafael Arcangel was the 20th California mission built (out of 21) late in the Spanish period. The mission was established on 14 Dec 1817 by Father Vicente De Sarria as an asistencia (sub-mission) of the Mission San Francisco de Asis to provide a place for the sick to recover. The asistencia became a full fledged mission in 1822 just as the Mexican Revolution came to an end.

Mexican Period (1822-1846)

Old Mission Plan Overlaid on Present Plan

The Mexican period began with the end of the Mexican Revolution around 1820. Mexican troops occupied the presidios and Mexican governors ran the province of Alta California. The Mexican government began the process of secularization (turning church lands over to private interests) around 1831 and passed laws in 1833 mandating secularization of all missions in Mexico. Secularization gradually ended church ownership of community property. Most of the missions and presidios were abandoned and fell into disrepair as the lands were redistributed to private owners.

Mission San Rafael Arcangel was the first California mission secularized and turned over to the Mexican government. By 1846, the mission itself had been fully abandoned and the remaining buildings sold off.

American Period (1846-Present)

The Mexican War was declared by the U.S. Congress on 11 May 1846 in response to a Mexican attack on U.S. troops in Texas. The declaration of war opened the door for American occupation of California. The American period began when American forces occupied San Diego in 1846. With end of the war, Mexico ceded all of upper California to the Americans in 1848 and a new round of land redistribution began.

On 19 Feb 1853, Archbishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany filed a claim on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church for the return of all former mission lands in the State of California. Ownership of 1,051 acres (for all practical intents being the exact area of land occupied by the original mission buildings, cemeteries, and gardens) was transferred back to the Catholic Church by land patents and proclamations signed by U.S. Presidents between 1855 and 1874.

During the Bear Flag Revolt in 1846, Captain John C. Fremont took over the Mission and used it as his headquarters, using the chapel as a stable. After California statehood in 1850 the Mission buildings were used by Marin County. The deteriorated buildings were torn down in 1861 and replaced with a small wooden church. Mission San Rafael Arcangel was returned to the Catholic Church in 1855.

Current Status

The current replica chapel was built in 1949 with a grant from the Hearst Foundation. Replicas of the church bells are hung on a cross beam structure in front of the replica chapel as they would have been on the original chapel. The original bells are in the Mission Museum on the side of the chapel. The replica chapel is a functioning house of worship and has more amenities than the original would have had. In addition to the replica chapel, bells and museum is a statue of Father Junipero Serra on the street side of the chapel. The current parish church (built in 1917) is centered on the entrance. Located in downtown San Rafael, Marin County, California.

USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 1828931

Location: 1104 5th Ave, San Rafael, Marin County, California.

Maps & Images

Lat: 37.974333 Long: -122.52791



Visited: 21 Nov 2012

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