Open main menu

Mission Santa Cruz

Mission Santa Cruz (La Misión de la Exaltación de la Santa Cruz, which translates as The Mission of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross)[9] was a Spanish mission founded by the Franciscan order in present-day Santa Cruz, California. The mission was founded in 1791 and named for the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, adopting the name given to a nearby creek by the missionary priest Juan Crespi, who accompanied the explorer Gaspar de Portolá when he camped on the banks of the San Lorenzo River on October 17, 1769.[3]

Mission Santa Cruz
Mission Santa Cruz
The Mission Santa Cruz chapel replica
Location130 Emmett St
Santa Cruz, California 95060
Coordinates36°58′41″N 122°1′46″W / 36.97806°N 122.02944°W / 36.97806; -122.02944Coordinates: 36°58′41″N 122°1′46″W / 36.97806°N 122.02944°W / 36.97806; -122.02944
Name as foundedLa Misión de la Exaltación de la Santa Cruz 
English translationThe Mission of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
PatronThe Exaltation of the Cross[1]
Nickname(s)"The Hard-luck Mission" [2]
Founding dateAugust 28, 1791 [3]
Founding priest(s)Father Fermín Lasuén [4]
Founding OrderTwelfth[1]
Military districtTwelfth[5]
Native tribe(s)
Spanish name(s)
Awaswas / Ohlone, Yokuts
Native place name(s)Uypi [6]
Governing bodyCatholic Diocese of Monterey
Current useChapel and Museum
Reference no.
  1. 342
Mission Hill Area Historic District
Mission Santa Cruz is located in California
Mission Santa Cruz
LocationMission Street
Coordinates36°58′39″N 122°1′43″W / 36.97750°N 122.02861°W / 36.97750; -122.02861
Area38 acres (15 ha)
Architectural styleSpanish Colonial, Stick-East lake-Queen AnneVictorian
NRHP reference #76000530[8]
Added to NRHPMay 17, 1976
Neary-Rodriguez Adobe
Neary-Rodriguez Adobe.jpg
Location130-134 School St.
Santa Cruz, California
NRHP reference #75000484[8]
Added to NRHPFebruary 24, 1975

As with the other California missions, Mission Santa Cruz served as a site for ecclesiastical conversion of natives, first the Amah Mutsun people,[10] the original inhabitants of the region renamed the "Ohlone"[11] by the Spaniards, and later the Yokuts from the east.[12] The settlement was the site of the first autopsy in Alta California.[4]

The current Holy Cross Church was built on the site of the original mission church in 1889, and it remains an active parish of the Diocese of Monterey. A section of stone foundation wall from one of the mission buildings and a few old headstones from the mission cemetery can be found directly behind the present Holy Cross Church. A reduced-scale "replica" chapel was built near the mission site in the 1930s and functions as a chapel of Holy Cross Church. Today's Plaza Park occupies the same location as the original plaza, at the center of the former mission complex. The complex at one time included as many as 32 buildings. The only surviving mission building, a dormitory for native acolytes, has been restored to its original appearance and functions as a museum of the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park.


Inside the mission chapel replica

The Santa Cruz mission was originally consecrated by Padre Fermin Lasuen on August 28, 1791,[13] on the San Lorenzo river's flood plain. It was one of the smaller missions, in the fourth military district under protection of the Presidio of San Francisco.[5] The mission was flooded as the San Lorenzo swelled with the rains that winter. Over the next three years, the padres rebuilt the mission on the hill overlooking the river.

In 1797, the secular pueblo (town) of Branciforte was founded across the San Lorenzo River to the east of Mission Santa Cruz. The mission padres did not welcome the location of the pueblo so close to the mission, and accused the Branciforte settlers of gambling, smuggling and tempting the native acolytes to desert the mission.

On October 12, 1812, Father Andrés Quintana was strangled to death by mission neophytes, angry over his use of a metal-tipped whip in the punishment of laborers.[14]

In 1818, the Mission received advance warning of an attack by the Argentine corsair (simply a pirate, from the Spanish point of view) Hipólito Bouchard and was evacuated.[15] The citizens of Branciforte, several of whom were retired soldiers, were asked to protect the Mission's valuables; instead, they were later accused (by the priests) of stealing.

One of the only surviving first-person descriptions by a native Californian of life in a mission was given in an interview by Lorenzo Asisara in 1877. Asisara was born at Mission Santa Cruz in 1819. His father was one of the neophytes involved in the Quintana killing, and Asisara repeated the story his father had told him about those events.

Decline and preservationEdit

Holy Cross Church (circa 1900)

The front wall of the adobe mission, built in 1794, was destroyed by the 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake. A wooden facade was added and the structure converted to other uses. A new wooden church was built next door in 1858.[16] In 1889, the current Gothic Revival-style Holy Cross Church was built on the original site in the same orientation, facing the original plaza.

At the same time, the mission cemetery was excavated and the remains moved to a mass grave at Old Holy Cross Cemetery,[17] a few miles to the east. In recent years, a group of local volunteers have been working to restore the old cemetery, and to identify the mission gravesite and those whose remains were moved there. A memorial was dedicated in 2016.[18]

The only original Mission building left is a long multi-room building which at one time housed local Yokut and Ohlone Indian families. The original building is located at 144 School Street and can be toured during operating hours.[19] There is also a protected remnant of the mission church foundation wall behind the current Holy Cross Church. The parish address is 126 High Street. The road leading to the mission from the west is called Mission Street, which is also part of California State Route 1.

In 1931, Gladys Sullivan Doyle proposed to construct a reduced-size replica of the original chapel. She contributed all of the construction costs, on the condition that she be allowed to be buried inside. Her grave can be viewed in a small side room. Since there were no surviving photographs or drawings of the original structure, design of the replica chapel was adapted from an 1876 (19 years after the collapse of the building's front half) painting by the French painter Léon Trousset.[20] The original painting hangs in the nave of the chapel.

The concrete construction was done by parishioner Tranquilino Costella, an Italian immigrant, whose contractor stamp is still seen in the sidewalk in front of the mission. The small replica chapel is mainly used for private services, daily Masses (M-F), and Morning Prayer on Saturday. An adjoining room functions as a gift shop. A stone fountain from the original mission complex stands in the garden behind the gift shop.

Santa Cruz Mission Historic Park and DistrictEdit

The only surviving original adobe mission building, a dormitory for Indian residents, has been restored as part of the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park as the Neary-Rodriguez Adobe.[21] The Santa Cruz Mission is designated California Historical Landmark number 342.[22] The Neary-Rodriguez Adobe was added to the National Register of Historic Places listings in Santa Cruz County, California as site number 75000484 on February 24, 1975, and the Mission Hill Area as a United States Historic District as site number 76000530 on May 17, 1976.[8]

Mission Hill Train TunnelEdit

Mission Santa Cruz has a hidden single track gated railroad tunnel running under it.[23] Railroad train service used to connect Oakland to Santa Cruz with a train going down the middle of Pacific Avenue on the way to the wharves.[24] In 1876 South Pacific Coast Railroad built a railroad tunnel under Mission Santa Cruz to reroute train traffic out of the busy downtown corridor.[25] The entrance can be found at the end of Amat street with the tunnel going under the church's parking lot and Emmett Street and emerging at Chestnut street. This is still an active rail line for Santa Cruz, Big Trees and Pacific Railway connecting Santa Cruz with Felton.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Krell, p. 219
  2. ^ Ruscin, p. 105
  3. ^ a b Yenne, p. 112
  4. ^ a b Ruscin, p. 196
  5. ^ a b Forbes, p. 202
  6. ^ Ruscin, p. 195
  7. ^ a b c Engelhardt, Z. Missions and Missionaries of California, Volume 4, page 529
  8. ^ a b c "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  9. ^ Leffingwell, p. 131
  10. ^ "Amah Mutsun Tribal Band History". Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. Archived from the original on August 9, 2018. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
  11. ^ "Native Americans of Santa Cruz". California Missions Resource Center. Archived from the original on August 9, 2018. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
  12. ^ "Santa Cruz Mission State Historical Park" (PDF). California Department of Parks and Recreation. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 15, 2017. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
  13. ^ California State Historical Resources Commission tacos. "Site of Mission Santa Cruz, California State Historical Marker". Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved March 11, 2011.
  14. ^ Castillo, Edward D. (1989). "The Assassination of Padre Andrés Quintana by the Indians of Mission Santa Cruz in 1812: The Narrative of Lorenzo Asisara". California History. 68 (3): 116–125. doi:10.2307/25462397. JSTOR 25462397.
  15. ^ 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, rather than a privateer. See Hippolyte de Bouchard.
  16. ^ Archived January 1, 2012, at the Wayback Machine Kimbro, Edna E. "Construction Chronology of the Site of Holy Cross Church". Santa Cruz Public Library
  17. ^ "Find a Grave: Old Holy Cross Cemeterey". Archived from the original on December 20, 2016. Retrieved December 19, 2016.[non-primary source needed]
  18. ^ Masters, Ryan (December 16, 2016). "Thousands buried in mass, unmarked Live Oak grave honored with memorial". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Archived from the original on December 18, 2016. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  19. ^ Archived March 25, 2013, at the Wayback Machine Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks Website
  20. ^ [1] Archived January 10, 2016, at the Wayback Machine Leon
  21. ^ "Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park". California State Parks official web site. Archived from the original on May 22, 2010. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  22. ^ "Santa Cruz County". California Historical Landmark web site. California Office of Historic Preservation. Archived from the original on May 27, 2010. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  23. ^ "Yesteryear of Mission Hill Tunnel". Archived from the original on January 30, 2018. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  24. ^ "South Pacific Coast Railroad History". Archived from the original on January 30, 2018. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  25. ^ "Mission Hill Tunnel – Santa Cruz Trains". Archived from the original on January 30, 2018. Retrieved January 29, 2018.


External linksEdit