Mission Santa Clara de Asís

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Spanish missions in California

Deakin SCA circa 1899.jpg
Mission Santa Clara de Asís, circa 1899.[1]
Location: Santa Clara, California
Coordinates: 37° 20′ 57.37″ N, 121° 56′ 29.76″ W
Name as Founded: La Misión Santa Clara de Asís [2]
English Translation: The Mission of Saint Clare of Assisi
Patron Saint: Saint Clare of Assisi [3]
Founding Date: January 12, 1777 [4]
Founded By: Father Presidente Junípero Serra [5][6]
Founding Order: Eighth [3]
Military District: Fourth [7]
Native Tribe(s):
Spanish Name(s):
Bay Miwok, Tamyen, Yokuts
Primordial Place Name(s): Socoisuka [8]
Baptisms: 8,536 [9]
Marriages: 2,498 [9]
Burials: 6,809 [9]
Neophyte Population 1,125 [10]
Secularized: 1836 [3]
Returned to the Church: 1858 [11]
Caretaker: Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose
Current Use: Parish Church / University Chapel
National Historic Landmark: #NPS-71000131
Date added to the NRHP: 1971
California Historical Landmark: #338
Web Site: http://www.scu.edu/mission/

Mission Santa Clara de Asís is a former religious outpost established by Spanish colonists on the west coast of North America in the present-day State of California. Founded on January 12, 1777 by Roman Catholics of the Franciscan Order, the settlement was the eighth in the twenty-one mission Alta California chain. Named after the 13-century founder of a monastic religious order for women (The Order of Poor Ladies), the Mission was the first in California to be named in honor of a woman. Designated as a California Historical Landmark, today the Mission serves both as a parish church within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Jose and as a chapel for Santa Clara University (a Jesuit institution, the first college in the state).


Mission Period (1769 – 1833)

The first mission to be built to honor a woman, the outpost was originally established as Mission Santa Clara de Thamien (or La Misión Santa Clara de Thamien) at the Indian village of So-co-is-u-ka (meaning "Laurelwood," located on the Guadalupe River) on January 12, 1777. There missionaries erected a cross and shelter for worship to bring Christianity to the Ohlone and Costanoan peoples. Floods and earthquakes damaged many of the early structures and forced relocation to higher ground. The second site is known as Mission Santa Clara de Asís. A subsequent site of the Mission dating from 1784 to 1819 is located several hundred yards west of the De La Cruz overpass of the CALTRAIN track; moreover, several Native American burial sites have been discovered near this subsequent site.[12] The current site, home to the first college in Alta California, dates back to 1828.[5]

Initially, there was tension between the people of the Mission and those in the nearby Pueblo de San Jose over disputed ownership rights of land and water. The tension was relieved when a road, The Alameda, was built by two hundred Indians to link the communities together. On Sundays, people from San Jose would come to the Mission for services, until the building of Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph in 1803.

Rancho Period (1834 – 1849)

California Statehood (1850 – 1900)

In 1850, California became a state and priest of the Jesuit Order took over the Mission Santa Clara de Asís. Father John Nobili, S.J., was put in charge of the Mission. He began a college on the Mission site in 1851, which grew into Santa Clara University; it is the only mission to become part of a university, and it is also the oldest university in California. President James Buchanan signed a proclamation on March 3, 1858 that restored ownership of the Mission proper to the Roman Catholic Church.[13] Throughout the history of the Mission, the bells have rung faithfully every evening, a promise made to King Charles III of Spain when he sent the original bells to the Mission in 1777. He asked that the bells be rung each evening at 8:30 in memory of those who had died.

20th century and beyond (1901 – present)

Although ruined and rebuilt six times, the settlement was never abandoned.[14] Mission Santa Clara de Asís sits on the campus of the Santa Clara University. After a 1925 fire destroyed the 1828 mission structure, the church's parochial functions were transferred to St. Clare Parish Church, on Lexington Street west of the campus. A rebuilt and restored Mission Santa Clara was consecrated in 1929, when it assumed its primary modern function as chapel and centerpiece of the University campus. The Mission museum is located in the University's De Saisset Museum.

Other designations

  • California Historical Landmark #250 — Old sites of Mission Santa Clara de Thamien and the Old Spanish Bridge

Notes and references

  1. (PD) Painting: Edwin Deakin
  2. Leffingwell, p. 137
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Krell, p. 167
  4. Yenne, p. 80
  5. 5.0 5.1 Ruscin, p. 196. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "ruscin196" defined multiple times with different content
  6. Leffingwell, p. 137. Though Serra is generally credited with the Mission's founding, it was Father Tomás de la Peña who actually celebrated the first mass at the site.
  7. Forbes, p. 202
  8. Ruscin, p. 195
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Krell, p. 315: as of December 31, 1832; information adapted from Engelhardt's Missions and Missionaries of California. Mission Santa Clara witnessed the greatest number of baptisms, marriages, and burials of any settlement in the Alta California chain.
  10. Krell, p. 315: as of December 31, 1832; information adapted from Engelhardt's Missions and Missionaries of California.
  11. Krell, p. 231
  12. Giglio, p. 3.11-1
  13. Leffingwell, p. 139
  14. Ruscin, p. 79