Mission San Gabriel Arcangel was the 4th of 21 Spanish missions built in California, constructed in 1771 just after San Antonio Mission on the Central Coast of California.
It contained the first hospital in California under the Franciscan order…
…and was considered to be one of the most prosperous missions in the chain.
Not only did it supply food and wine to other missions along the coast, it also baptized over 25,000 people in a span of around 60 years. That’s a lot of saved souls.
In 1812, earthquakes shook the building structures and caused a three-bell campanario to collapse. A six-bell structure was eventually brought in to replace them.
Named after the Archangel Gabriel, The San Gabriel Mission was designed by Spaniard Antonio Cruzado, whose designs such as tall, narrow windows and capped buttresses are unique among the California missions.
His designs included strong Moorish architectural influence that was integrated and mixed with other styles in some of the missions built.
The mission you visit today has been renovated, as all the surviving missions have. The 1834 secularization that took the missions out of the hands of the Spaniards, suddenly left the mission grounds without a caretaker. The once-extensive vineyards fell into decay, fences broke and animals roamed free, and the building began to collapse.
From 1862 to 1908 Claretian missionaries worked to rebuild and restore the facility that once stood in glory as a successful model.
Subsequent damage occurred when the Whittier Narrows Earthquake of 1987 shook its foundation and further damaged the property. Mission San Gabriel was once again reinforced and rehabbed.
The mission grounds include a cemetery, indoor and outdoor kitchens, winery, water cisterns, soap and candle vats, and tanning vats for preparing cattle hides.
The grounds also include gardens with flowers and native plants.
I always thought Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights was the oldest but it’s not. Evergreen was established on August 23, 1877. The San Gabriel Mission was first consecrated in 1778.
The cemetery contains the graves of over 6,000 native Americans and Franciscans who served at the mission.