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Mission Santa Clara de Asís

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Title: Mission Santa Clara de Asís  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Santa Clara University, Spanish missions in California, Saint Clare Parish, Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose in California, Santa Clara County, California
Collection: 1777 Establishments in California, 1777 in Alta California, Buildings and Structures in Santa Clara, California, California Historical Landmarks, Chapels in the United States, Churches in Santa Clara County, California, History of Santa Clara County, California, History of Santa Clara, California, Religious Buildings Completed in 1777, Religious Buildings Completed in 1929, Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose in California, Santa Clara University, Spanish Missions in California, Visitor Attractions in Santa Clara, California
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Mission Santa Clara de Asís

Mission Santa Clara de Asís
Mission Santa Clara de Asís
Mission Santa Clara de Asís is located in San Jose, California
Mission Santa Clara de Asís
Location in the South Bay
Location 500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, California 95053
Name as founded La Misión Santa Clara de Asís [1]
English translation The Mission of Saint Clare of Assisi
Founding date January 12, 1777 [2]
Founding priest(s) Father Presidente Junípero Serra [3][4]
Founding Order Eighth[5]
Military district Fourth[6]
Native tribe(s)
Spanish name(s)
Bay Miwok, Tamyen, Yokuts
Native place name(s) Socoisuka [7]
Baptisms 8,536[8]
Marriages 2,498[8]
Burials 6,809[8]
Neophyte population 1,125[9]
Secularized 1836[5]
Governing body Santa Clara University; Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose
Current use University chapel; Parish church
California Historical Landmark
CHISL # #338

Mission Santa Clara de Asís is a Spanish mission founded by the Franciscan order in the present-day city of Santa Clara, California. The mission, the eighth Spanish mission built in California, was founded on January 12, 1777 and named for Saint Clare of Assisi, the foundress of the order of the Poor Clares. It is the namesake of both the city and county of Santa Clara, as well as Santa Clara University, which was built around the mission. This was the first California Mission to be named in honor of a woman and the only one now located on a university campus.

Although ruined and rebuilt six times, the settlement was never abandoned,[10] and today it functions as both a parish church of the Diocese of San Jose and a university chapel for Santa Clara University.


  • History 1
  • Other historic designations 2
  • See also 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The outpost was originally established as La Misión Santa Clara de Thamien (or Mission Santa Clara de Thamien, a reference to the Tamyen people) at the Indian village of So-co-is-u-ka (meaning "Laurelwood", located on the Guadalupe River) January 12, 1777. There the Franciscan brothers erected a cross and shelter for worship to bring Christianity to the Ohlone and Costanoan peoples. Floods, fires, and earthquakes damaged many of the early structures and forced relocation to higher ground. The second site is known as Mission Santa Clara de Asís. A subsequent site of the Mission dating from 1784 to 1819 is located several hundred yards west of the De La Cruz overpass of the Caltrain track; moreover, several Native American burial sites have been discovered near this subsequent site.[11] The current site, home to the first college in Alta California, dates back to 1828.[3]

Initially, there was tension between the people of the Mission and those in the nearby Pueblo de San Jose over disputed ownership rights of land and water. The tension was relieved when a road, the Alameda, was built by two hundred Indians to link the communities together. On Sundays, people from San Jose would come to the Mission for services, until the building of St. Joseph's Church in 1803. In that year, the mission of Santa Clara reported an Indian population of 1,271. In the same tabular report, its resident priest estimated that 5,000 cattle, 7,000 sheep, 2,200 horses and 30 mules were on mission lands, while about 3,000 fanegas of grain (some 220 pounds each of wheat, barley or corn) had been harvested.

In 1850, California became a state and priests of the Jesuit Order took over the Mission Santa Clara de Asís. Father John Nobili, S.J., was put in charge of the Mission. He began a college on the Mission site in 1851, which grew into Santa Clara University;[12] it is the only mission to become part of a university, and it is also the oldest university in California. Throughout the history of the Mission, the bells have rung faithfully every evening, a promise made to King Charles III of Spain when he sent the original bells to the Mission in 1777. He asked that the bells be rung each evening at 8:30 in memory of those who had died.

In 1861, a new wooden façade with two bell towers was attached over the old adobe front of the building. The interior was widened in 1885 to increase the seating capacity by removing the original adobe nave walls.[13][14] A fire in 1925 destroyed the structure, including the surrounding wall. The church's parochial functions were transferred to Saint Clare Parish west of the campus. A rebuilt and restored Mission Santa Clara was consecrated in 1929, when it assumed its primary modern function as chapel and centerpiece of the university campus. It is open to visitors every day; the Mission museum is located in the university's De Saisset Museum.

Other historic designations

See also


Mission Santa Clara de Asís circa 1910.
  1. ^ Leffingwell, p. 137
  2. ^ Yenne, p. 80
  3. ^ a b Ruscin, p. 196.
  4. ^ Leffingwell, p. 137. Though Serra is generally credited with the Mission's founding, it was Father Tomás de la Peña who actually celebrated the first mass at the site.
  5. ^ a b Krell, p. 167
  6. ^ Forbes, p. 202
  7. ^ Ruscin, p. 195
  8. ^ a b c Krell, p. 315: as of December 31, 1832; information adapted from Engelhardt's Missions and Missionaries of California. Mission Santa Clara witnessed the greatest number of baptisms, marriages, and burials of any settlement in the Alta California chain.
  9. ^ Krell, p. 315: as of December 31, 1832; information adapted from Engelhardt's Missions and Missionaries of California.
  10. ^ Ruscin, p. 79
  11. ^ Giglio, p. 3.11-1
  12. ^ Fodor's (December 21, 2010). Fodor's Northern California 2011: With Napa, Sonoma, Yosemite, San Francisco & Lake Tahoe. Random House Digital, Inc. p. 48.  
  13. ^ Pugh, Teresa (2006). "History of Mission Santa Clara de Asis".  
  14. ^ Kimbro, Edna; Costello, Julia G.; Ball, Tevvy (October 20, 2009). The California Missions: History, Art and Preservation. Getty Conservation Institute.  


A view toward the altar of the exquisitely ornate Mission Santa Clara de Asís chapel, circa 1897.
  • Forbes, Alexander (1839). California: A History of Upper and Lower California. Smith, Elder and Co., Cornhill, London. 
  • Giglio, Gary, C., et al. Environmental Impact Report for the General Plan Amendment, Rezoning and Development of a Portion of FMC Corporation's Coleman Avenue Facility, Earth Metrics Inc., September 1988, published by the City of Santa Clara, California.
  • Jones, Terry L. and Kathryn A. Klar (eds.) (2007). California Prehistory: Colonization, Culture, and Complexity. Altimira Press, Landham, MD.  
  • Leffingwell, Randy (2005). California Missions and Presidios: The History & Beauty of the Spanish Missions. Voyageur Press, Inc., Stillwater, MN.  
  • Levy, Richard. (1978). William C. Sturtevant, and Robert F. Heizer, ed.  
  • Milliken, Randall (1995). A Time of Little Choice: The Disintegration of Tribal Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area 1769–1910. Ballena Press Publication, Menlo Park, CA.  
  • Paddison, Joshua (ed.) (1999). A World Transformed: Firsthand Accounts of California Before the Gold Rush. Heyday Books, Berkeley, CA.  
  • Ruscin, Terry (1999). Mission Memoirs. Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, CA.  
  • Yenne, Bill (2004). The Missions of California. Advantage Publishers Group, San Diego, CA.  

External links

  • Early photographs, sketches of Mission Santa Clara de Asís, via Calisphere, California Digital Library
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