1. When was this Mission founded?
It was founded on July 16, 1769 by Father Junipero Serra.
2. Was this the first mission in the chain
It was the first mission in the chain of 21 that were founded in Alta
or Upper California but a mission was founded in Baja or Lower California
at San Fernando de Velicata as part of the expedition to establish the
Alta California missions. It was established on May 14, 1769.
3. Is this the original church?
This is the fifth church on this site. The church
was enlarged over the years to accommodate the growing population of
neophytes (baptized American Indians). In 1812, as the fourth church
was being built, a devastating earthquake damaged and destroyed several
other missions and although we were spared, a decision was made to add
buttress wings to secure the facade. In 1976, Mission San Diego de Alcala
was named a basilica. A basilica is a church of very important historical
significance. It is an honor bestowed upon a church by the Pope. Only
four of the California missions are basilicas: Mission San Francisco
de Asis (Dolores), Mission San Carlos Borromeo, Mission San Diego and
most recently, Mission San Juan Capistrano.
4. Do Franciscan priests still live here?
Mission San Diego is part of the Diocese of San Diego and is staffed
by secular priests. Four of the missions are still run by Franciscans:
Santa Barbara, San Miguel, San Antonio de Padua and San Luis Rey. Santa
Inez is run by Franciscan Capuchins. Two missions are now part of state
run museums: Purisima Conception and Sonoma.
5. Are the bells original?
One of the bells is original - it is one of the
larger bells and it is distinguishable because it has a conan or crown
on top of it and is dated 1802. When the King of Spain wanted bells
forged for the missions, he required that they have a crown. The other
large bell is made up of remnants from the original bells. The middle
two bells are crown bells and all five bells are rung in unison only
once a year and that is on the birthday of the mission. The large bell
on the bottom (non-crown) is rung twice a day (at noon and at six) and
before every Mass on Sunday. Bells were extremely important in mission
days; they were used as clocks signifying when it was time to eat, pray,
work or play. Different tones and sequencing were also significant.
6. What is El Camino Real?
El Camino Real is the King's Highway. In Alta California, it begins
in San Diego and ends 600 miles north at Mission San Francisco Solano
in Sonoma. The missions were built to be one day's walk apart.
7. What is the name of the Native Americans
who lived in this area?
They are commonly referred to as Kumeyaay, although at various times
they are called Mission Indians or Diegueno (taking the name from the
mission). The Kumeyaay were hunters and gatherers, had no strong sense
of ownership and were fairly nomadic moving from mountains to coast
as the seasons changed.
The Kumeyaay had never seen cloth before the Spanish arrived; their
garments were made from plant products.
the Native Americans forced to live at this mission?
Although some texts in the schools make that claim, all primary source
material (documents) and archaeological findings indicate otherwise.
Mission San Diego was so poor that when Father Lasuen was pastor in
1775, he had to devise a rotating system whereby half of the Native
Americans could live on the grounds and the others would remain in their
native villages and they would periodically rotate. This would indicate
that they were able to freely go back and forth from village to mission.