The Missions: Number 4

The fourth of the chain of Franciscan missions in Alta California was founded on the Feast of the Birth of Mary, September 8, 1771, and named San Gabriel Arcángel in honor of the Archangel Gabriel, Holy Prince of Angels. Five years later, when a flash flood destroyed much of the crops and ruined the complex, the mission was relocated five miles closer to the San Gabriel Mountains. The 1812 Wrightwood earthquake caused the bell-wall to collapse, after which a larger, six-bell structure was constructed.  The architecture of the mission church, with its tall, narrow windows designed by Spaniard Father Antonio Cruzado in a Moorish style, is unique among the 21 missions. In its prime San Gabriel furnished food and supplies to settlements and other missions from its vast stores of livestock, soap and candle operations, tannery, and extensive vineyards. Well over 25,000 baptisms were conducted there between 1771 and 1834, when the mission was secularized; afterward, many of its structures fell into ruins. However, the chapel remained in use, and in the early 19th century the Claretian Missionary Fathers began the job of rebuilding and restoring the complex. Today the landmark Mission San Gabriel Arcángel is an active Roman Catholic house of worship that supports many religious and secular activities, with an adjacent elementary school, and a high school for young women nearby.


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