San Diego de Alcala

San Diego de Alcala, the first mission in California, is considered the birthplace of Christianity in the far West. The mission was founded on July 16, 1769, by Father Junipero Serra, after King Carlos III of Spain ordered expeditions from New Spain (Mexico). The king had discovered Russians were hunting seals off the coast of California and wanted to establish settlements.

San Diego de Alcala

The mission was originally on a site overlooking San Diego Bay, but was moved to the current location five years later because of inadequate water and poor soil.

church interior

The church is modest and rather narrow inside.


I like the detail around the font

ceiling detail

and in the ceiling. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this color combination in a church before.

The garden next to the church has a statue of Junipero Serra,

Junipero Serra

and a striking bird of paradise. . . .

bird of paradise

On the other side of the church, a courtyard with a lovely fountain


and potted succulents.

potted plant

There’s a small chapel behind the church,


and a museum with this sketch from long ago. . . .


On the way out, you’ll pass an archeological dig

dig site

and this verandah.


El Camino Real, aka the King’s Highway or Royal Road, begins in San Diego and ends 600 miles later at Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma. The twenty-one missions were built to be one day’s walk apart. I have seen only three so far.


One of the bells is original, dated 1802. There are bells similar to the ones below along parts of El Camino Real:


In 1976, the mission was designated as a Minor Basilica by Pope Paul VI. Mission San Diego is still an operating parish, although Mass is conducted in a newer church.

Mission front

The day we were there, the skies were insanely blue. A great contrast to the stark white mission walls. How funny is it to see snow falling on these photos? 🙂

Have a great weekend, everyone.


About pearlsandprose

Photography. With a little life thrown in.
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12 Responses to San Diego de Alcala

  1. Caroline says:

    What a lovely sight seeing tour, Carole. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  2. What a beautiful church. Excellent pics:)

  3. Cheryl says:

    I’ve been to San Diego but it was a rushed business trip with a day of fun tacked on at the start. Oh how much I missed! Thanks for expanding my impressions of beautiful San Diego.

  4. I loved seeing this tour! I’ve been to San Luis Obispo and there are many architectural similarities to this one. Alas, the butterflies were not in residence when I visited. Do you know if all 21 original missions are still standing?

    • Thanks, Jackie! As far as I know, they are all standing. The mission at San Juan Capistrano was crumbling a bit a few years back, but it is really beautiful. I’m hoping to get back up there eventually.

  5. TBM says:

    I think I’ve been there! Must have been over 20 years ago, maybe 30. Lovely shots and thanks for the stroll down memory lane

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