Mission Santa Cruz

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Spanish missions in California

Deakin SC circa 1899.jpg
Mission Santa Cruz, circa 1899.[1]
Location: Santa Cruz, California
Coordinates: 36° 58′ 41.22″ N, 122° 1′ 45.84″ W
Name as Founded: La Misión de la Exaltación de la Santa Cruz [2]
English Translation: The Mission of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross [3]
Namesake: The Holy Cross [4]
Nickname(s): "The Hard-luck Mission" [5]
Founding Date: August 29, 1791 [6]
Founded By: Father Fermín Lasuén [7]
Founding Order: Twelfth [3]
Military District: Fourth [8]
Native Tribe(s):
Spanish Name(s):
Awaswas / Ohlone, Yokuts
Primordial Place Name(s): Uypi [9]
Baptisms: 2,439 [10]
Marriages: 827 [10]
Burials: 1,972 [10]
Secularized: 1834 [3]
Returned to the Church: 1859
Caretaker: Roman Catholic Diocese of Monterey
Current Use: Chapel / Museum
Current Land Area: 38 acres
California Historical Landmark: #342
Web Site: http://www.holycrosssantacruz.com/mission.html

Mission Santa Cruz 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 August 29, 1791 by Roman Catholics of the Franciscan Order, the settlement was the twelfth in the twenty-one mission Alta California chain. Named after the "Celebration of the Sacred Cross," the settlement was the site of the first autopsy in Alta California. Designated as a California Historical Landmark, today the replica chapel (erected in 1931) operates both as a museum and as a parish church within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Monterey.


Mission Period (1769 – 1833)

Mission Santa Cruz was originally established in 1791 on the floodplain of the San Lorenzo River. That winter, the mission was flooded as the San Lorenzo swelled with the rains. The padres set out to rebuild the mission on the hill overlooking the river. On the night of December 14, 1793 Mission Santa Cruz was attacked and partially burned by members of the Quiroste tribe who inhabited the mountains to the east of Point Año Nuevo. The attack was purportedly motivated by the forced relocation of native Indians to the Mission. On October 12, 1812 Father Andrés Quintana was beaten to death and his body disfigured (allegedly, his testicles were smashed) by natives angry over his use of a metal-tipped whip in the punishment of Mission laborers.[11]

In 1797, the Spanish governor of Monterey founded the secular pueblo (town) of Branciforte, across the San Lorenzo River from Mission Santa Cruz. The frequent gambling and smuggling which occurred in and through Branciforte brought what the padres of Mission Santa Cruz considered an unwelcome element to the area. In 1818, the Mission received advance warning of an attack by the "pirate" Hipólito Bouchard and was evacuated.[12] The citizens of Branciforte were asked to protect the Mission's valuables; instead, they looted the Mission.

Rancho Period (1834 – 1849)

California Statehood (1850 – 1900)

A series of earthquakes in 1857 destroyed the Mission. The lands were put up for sale, but no buyer was found. In 1858, a wood-frame church was built on the old Mission property. President James Buchanan signed a proclamation on September 2, 1859 that restored ownership of the Mission proper to the Roman Catholic Church.[13] In 1889, the current Gothic style Holy Cross Church was built on the original adobe site. There is nothing left of the original Mission except for a row of buildings which at one time housed local Yokut and Ohlone Indian families, and a protected remnant of the mission wall standing behind the current Holy Cross Church.

20th century and beyond (1901 – present)

In 1931, Gladys Sullivan Doyle proposed to construct a replica of the Mission; she used her own funds to build a half-size replica of the original church.

Other designations

  • National Register of Historic Places #NPS-76000530 — Mission Hill Area Historic District

Notes and references

  1. (PD) Painting: Edwin Deakin
  2. Leffingwell, p. 131
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Krell, p. 219
  4. Ruscin, p. 105
  5. Ruscin, p. 105
  6. Yenne, p. 112
  7. Ruscin, p. 196
  8. Forbes, p. 202
  9. Ruscin, p. 195
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Krell, p. 315: as of December 31, 1832; information adapted from Engelhardt's Missions and Missionaries of California.
  11. Leffingwell, p. 132
  12. There is a great contrast between the legacy of Bouchard in Argentina versus his reputation in the United States. In Buenos Aires, Bouchard is honored as a brave patriot, while in California he is most often remembered as a pirate, and not a privateer.
  13. Leffingwell, p. 133