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Dolores Mission

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(Or Mission San Francisco De Asis De Los Dolores)

In point of time the sixth in the chain of twenty-one California Indian Missions; formally opened 9 Oct., 1776. The date intended for the celebration was 4 Oct., the feast of St Francis of Assisi, but owing to the absence of the military commander of the neighboring presidio, which had been established on 17 Sept., the feast of the stigmata of St. Francis, the formal founding was delayed. The first Mass on or near the site was celebrated in a tent by Father Francisco Palou, on the feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul, 29 June, and on 28 July, the first Mass was offered up in the temporary chapel. Father Palou on the title pages of the mission records gives 1 August as the day of foundation. The early missionaries, however, always celebrated the 4th of October as the patronal feast of the mission. The appellation "Dolores" was added because the mission was established on a streambed which Father Pedro Font, O.F.M., and Captain Juan Bautista de Anza had discovered on 28 March, 1776, and in honor of the Blessed Virgin had called Arroyo de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores. In all official documents, reports, and in the records, the mission bears no other name than San Francisco de Asis; but after 1824, when the Mission San Francisco Solano was established at Sonóma, to avoid confusion, it was popularly called Dolores, that is to say, the mission on the Dolores. The founders of the mission were Father Francisco Palou, the historian, and Father Pedro Benito Cambon. The other missionaries stationed here in the course of time were the Franciscan Fathers Tomás de la Peña, Miguel Giribet, Vincente de Santa Maria, Matías Noriega, Norberto de Santiago, Diego Garcia, Faustino de Solá, Antonio Dantí, Martin de Landaeta, Diego de Noboa, Manuel Fernández, José de Espí, Ramón Abella, Luis Gil, Juan Sainz, Vincente Oliva, Juan Cabot, Blas Ordaz, José Altimira, Tomás Esténega, Lorenzo Quijas, José Gutierrez, José Mercado, José Real, Miguel Muro. The Rev. Prudencio Santillan, the first secular priest, took charge in 1846.

The cornerstone of the present church, the oldest building in San Francisco, and which survived the earthquake of 1906 practically without damage, was laid in 1782 and finished with a thatched roof. In 1795, tiles replaced the thatch. The mission buildings as usual were erected in the form of a square. The church stood in the south-east corner fronting the east. The wings of the square contained the rooms of the missionaries, two of whom were always there until about June, 1828, the shops of the carpenters, smiths, saddlers, rooms for melting tallow and making soap, for the agricultural implements, for spinning wool and weaving coarse fabrics. There were twenty looms in constant operation, and two mills moved by mule-power ground the grain. Most of the neophytes were engaged in agriculture and stock-raising. Owing to the barren nature of the soil and the high winds in the neighborhood, sowing and planting was done ten or twelve miles down the peninsula. The stock also grazed far away from the mission. About one hundred yards from the church stood the neophyte village, composed of eight rows of one-story dwellings. The girls lived at the mission proper under the care of a matron (see California Missions). A school was in operation in 1818. The highest number of Indians living at the mission was reached in 1820, when 1242 neophytes made their home with the missionaries and received food, clothing, and instruction. The first baptism of an Indian occurred on 24 June, 1777. From that date till October, 1845, when the last Franciscan departed, 7200 names were entered into the baptismal record, about 500 of which represented white people. During the same period, 5503 deaths occurred and 2156 marriages were blessed; about eighty of the latter were those of white couples. From 1785 to the end of 1832, for which period we have the reports, the mission raised 120,000 bushels of wheat, 70,226 bushels of barley, 18,260 bushels of corn, 14,386 bushels of beans, 7296 bushels of peas, and 905 bushels of lentils and garvanzos or horse beans. The largest number of animals owned by the mission was as follows: cattle, 11,340 head in 1809; sheep, 11,324 in 1814; goats, 65 in 1786; horses, 1239 in 1831; mules, 45 in 1813.


Records of Mission San Francisco, Ms.; Archives of Mission Santa Barbara, Ms.; Font, Diario at Berkeley University, Ms. (Berkeley, CA.); Palou, Noticias (San Francisco, 1874). II, IV; Palou, Vida del Fray Junípero Serra (Mexico, 1787); Bancroft, History of California (San Francisco, 1886) I, V; Engelhardt, The Franciscans in California (Harbor Springs, Mich., 1897).

About this page

APA citation. Engelhardt, Z. (1909). Dolores Mission. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Engelhardt, Zephyrin. "Dolores Mission." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Tony Recker.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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