Santa Clara de Asís


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Founded: January 12, 1777

Founder: Father Junipero Serra

Status: An active Catholic Church and Jesuit University

Indian tribes native to surrounding area: Ohlone, Costanoan, Miwok, Yokuts

Location: 500 E. Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053

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Mission Santa Clara de Asis

Mission Santa Clara de Asís was the second mission established in the San Francisco Bay area. It was the first California mission to honor a female saint.

Together with the San Francisco Presidio and Mission Dolores (San Francisco de Asís), the mission created a strong Spanish presence and control of the bay area.

At approximately same time, a civilian pueblo, or settlement, was established at nearby San Jose.

Initially, there was friction between the mission and the San Jose community, including disputes over cattle grazing and water rights. Eventually, a four mile road, The Alameda, was built connecting the communities, and leading to better relations. The Alameda is still in use today, a busy multi-lane commuter route.

In 1851, the Jesuit order took possession of the remaining mission buildings, and established a center for higher learning that eventually became Santa Clara University (the oldest university in California).

Key Events

1777 – Mission founded.

1836 – Mission secularized.

1846 – Mission returned to the Catholic church.

1851 – Control of the mission is transferred to the Jesuits; it forms the nucleus of Santa Clara University.

Visiting the Santa Clara de Asís Mission

Very little remains of the original mission, aside from a few adobe walls. The current church was constructed in 1929, modeled on a previous structure built in 1825 (and destroyed by fire). It contains a number of statues and furnishings from earlier eras.

The rose garden on the right side of the church was once the mission cemetery.

There is a tall cross, erected in 1777, across from the church entrance. Also note the four bells in the companario; one dates to 1798 and was donated by King Carlos IV of Spain. The bells have been rung each evening since 1798 in commemoration of the gift.

The Santa Clara University is a beautiful and historic setting in its own right, and well worth a visit.

 

Classic California mission architecture. Photo by JaGa.
Classic California mission architecture.
Photo by JaGa.
Rose gardens on the university grounds at the site of the original mission.
Rose gardens on the university grounds
at the site of the original mission.
A small section of original wall, showing the adobe brick construction.
A small section of original wall, showing
the adobe brick construction.

When visiting Mission Santa Clara, be sure to visit the many other attractions in Silicon Valley!