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Last Updated: Mar 4th, 2009 - 23:53:18

San Rafael Arcangel  

Mission San Rafael Arcangel
By Anne Brooksher
Mar 3, 2009, 17:23 PST

Father Vincente de Sarria, a Franciscan priest of the Alta California Mission Chain, founded the Mission San Rafael Arcangel on December 14, 1817. It was the 20th of California's 21 missions, and it was established as secondary to the Mission San Francisco de Asis.

Original: 1861 - 1885 VIEW FROM SOUTH - HABS

The mission originally was established to serve as a convalescent hospital to the many sick Neophytes (Christianized Indians) from Mission San Francisco. It was named after Saint Rafael, the angel of healing. The pleasant climate of the north shore of the San Francisco Bay was rumored to restore health to the sick Indians and soon Natives from Mission San Francisco, as well as other missions, began sending their sick to this healthy locale.

San Rafael was never intended to be a full-fledged mission, but with significant growth due to the success of its rehabilitation programs, it was founded as a full mission on October 18th, 1822.

Most Indians had a rough beginning at the mission. Many were sick patients from other missions sent to San Rafael to heal, however, not all Indians at the mission were patients. The padres, especially Father Juan Amoros, had excellent luck recruiting local Natives. By 1828, there were over 1,000 Indians living and working at the Mission San Rafael Arcangel.

The Indians who moved to the mission were taught trades in order to become productive members of the community. Father Amoros helped them to become expert cattlemen, boat makers, blacksmiths, carpenters, and weavers.

Like most California missions, the Mission San Rafael Arcangel supported itself and the Native inhabitants of the area by growing crops of wheat and corn. They also raised herds of horses and cattle, and cultivated grapes in a vineyard. Although it started as a hospital mission, it soon became fully self-supporting. Gaining more economic stability than the Mission San Francisco, the Mission San Rafael boasted the most animals of any California mission.

In 1822 when the mission chapel was built, no surrounding quadrangle was constructed. San Rafael remains one of the few missions in the Alta California chain without a centering quadrangle. The mission suffered many military encounters during its short 17 years, but it remained extremely productive and was hailed as a haven for its Indian inhabitants.

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