Mission San Gabriel Arcángel
Founded by Fathers Pedro Benito Cambón and Angel Fernandez Somera y Balbuena in 1771, the mission was originally established along the slopes of the Montebello hills at the native site of Shevaanga, overlooking the San Gabriel Valley. In 1775 the mission was relocated to the native site of Iisanchanga about three miles to the northwest, where it currently stands being about nine miles east of Azusa Street.
Within fifteen years of its founding San Gabriel had 1,000 neophytes, or newly converted believers. The highest population recorded was 1,701, in 1817. Well over 25,000 baptisms were conducted at San Gabriel between 1771 and 1834, making it the most prolific in the mission chain.
San Gabriel had the largest vineyard in Spanish California and was the botanical source of many of the vines planted in the other missions in the chain. Starting with only 128 animals in 1772, the mission herd reached 42,350, primarily cattle (25,000) and sheep (15,000) at its peak in 1829. During this time, the mission furnished food and supplies to settlements and other missions throughout California.
A majority of the Mission structures fell into ruins after it was secularized in November of 1834. The once-extensive vineyards were falling to decay, with fences broken down and animals roaming freely through it.
The Mission’s chapel functioned as a parish church for the City of San Gabriel from 1862 until 1908, when the Claretian Missionary Fathers came to San Gabriel and began the job of rebuilding and restoring the Mission. On October 1, 1987 the Whittier Narrows Earthquake damaged the property. A significant portion of the original complex has since been restored.
The dirt road, seen in the image, was part of “El Camino Real” – the 600-mile California Mission Trail connecting the former Atla California’s 21 missions. The Moorish influence of the mission is evidenced by the Buttressed walls, vaulted roof, and fortress-like appearance. The walls are original and are over four feet thick, with sections through the buttresses as much as seven feet thick.