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Footsteps of History

The California Missions

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Mission
Mission Santa Cruz
The 12th Mission in the California Mission Chain
Founded 14 September 1791
by Father Fermín Francisco de Lasuén

Naming of Mission:

"Santa Cruz" means "Holy Cross" in Spanish. The full Spanish name of the mission is "Misión la exaltación de la Santa Cruz," named after a feast day in the Church calendar which occurs on September 14: The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, celebrating the Christian symbol of the cross on which Jesus was crucified.
The church was completed in 1794. It was 112 feet long and 29 feet wide.

Location:

South of San Jose and the San Francisco Bay area on Monterey Bay's northern edge.

History:

The mission was founded on 14 September 1791 by Father Lasuen. The first Padres here were Alonzo Salazar and Baldomero Lopez. They wanted the mission to be near good water to help them with growing their crops as well as to have good drinking water. To help them get started, other missions gave the new mission supplies and animals. This was very helpful for the new Fathers at the mission. The first church was built of adobe bricks and used the native Redwood for lumber. The roof was thatched as were many of the early missions. The traditional tile roofs came later. Since the first mission was built next to the San Lorenzo River, the Padres thought they would have good water to use. They did, but during the rainy season, the river was known to overflow. It did so soon after the mission was built, washing it away. The floor of the first church also was made of dirt which didn't offer a good foundation whenever the rains came. The second site was chosen on the top of the hill.

The mission did better on the top of the hill than it had by the River. The new church had a bell tower with nine bells in it. The church was completed in 1794 and was 112 feet long and 29 feet wide. Mission Santa Cruz grew crops and raised animals like all the other missions, but they also utilized the Redwood trees which were in the area abundantly. All the missions received lumber from the Santa Cruz Mission. The two local Native American tribes here were the Ohlone and the Zayante, but they were eventually just known as the Santa Cruz Indians.

In 1797, The new pueblo of Branciforte was built just a few miles from the mission causing the Padres much consternation. The town was mostly populated by ex-convicts and people with criminal pasts. The very vices the Padres were helping the Natives to let go of were the ones espoused by the people of the pueblo. It caused great troubles for the mission, even the robbery of the mission while the Padres were away.

In 1840, there was a strong earthquake which knocked down the belltower, including the bells. They say the bells awakened the entire town of Santa Cruz when they fell. The rest of the mission did not fall, but it was greatly weakened by the quake. In 1857, there was another strong earthquake. This quake did more damage because the buildings were in a much more susceptible condition. The nine bells were sent to the San Francisco Mission where they remain today. The Padres didn't want to see the mission in ruins, so they quickly built a new church. This one was made of wood rather than adobe. They weren't able to take the time to build a larger church. Later, in 1889, a large gothic-style church was built of stone and it still used today by the Holy Cross Parish in Santa Cruz. Nothing remained of the original mission church.

Due to the efforts of Gladys Sullivan Doyle, the mission church was replicated on the original hilltop site in 1931 next to the Holy Cross Church still standing on the original mission chapel site. She left all her money for the re-building of the mission here in Santa Cruz. It isn't as large as the original because of the lack of funds, but just as beautiful. Mrs. Doyle is buried at the mission church.

Contact the Mission:

Mission Santa Cruz
Mission Plaza
High Street at Emmet Street
Santa Cruz, California 95060
Park Office: 831-425-5849

Mission Trivia:

Mission Santa Cruz is known as "the hard luck mission." Due to its many mis-adventures over the years.

Mission Links

Mission Santa Cruz Website - A California State Historic Park

A resource page for the Santa Cruz Mission

Try this history page for the mission

California Missions


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This page was last updated on 28 June 2012 at 1:03 pm

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