Mission San Diego de Alcalá

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Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá, in San Diego, California, was the first Franciscan mission in the Las Californias Province of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. It was founded in 1769 by Spanish friar Junípero Serra in an area long inhabited by the Kumeyaay Indians. The mission and the surrounding area were named for the Catholic Saint Didacus, a Spaniard more commonly known as San Diego. The mission was the site of the first Christian burial in Alta California. San Diego is also generally regarded as the site of the region's first public execution, in 1778. Father Luís Jayme, "California's First Christian Martyr," lies entombed beneath the chancel floor. The current church is the fourth to stand on this location.[15] The Mission is a National Historic Landmark.[14]

Contents

History

The former Spanish settlement at the Kumeyaay's Nipawai lies within that area occupied during the late Pale oindian period and continuing on into the present day by the Native society commonly known as the Diegueño;[16] the name denotes those people who were ministered by the padres at Mission San Diego de Alcalá.[17] Relatively, much is known about the native inhabitants in recent centuries, thanks in part to the efforts of the Spanish explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, who documented his observations of life in the coastal villages he encountered along the Southern California coast in October of 1542.[18] Cabrillo, a Portuguese navigator in the service of Spain, is credited with the discovery of San Diego Bay. On the evening of September 28, 1542 the ships San Salvador and Victoria sailed into the harbor, whereupon Cabrillo christened it "San Miguel."[19] During that expedition a landing party went ashore and briefly interacted with a small group of natives. Some sixty years later another Spanish explorer, Sebastián Vizcaíno, made landfall some ten miles from the present Mission site. Under Vizcaíno's command the San Diego, Santo Tomás, and frigate Tres Reyes dropped anchor on November 10, 1602, and the port was renamed "San Diego de Alcalá."[20][21] It would be another 167 years before the Spanish returned to San Diego. Ever since the voyages of Christopher Columbus, the Kingdom of Spain sought to establish missions to convert the pagans in Nueva España ("New Spain") to Roman Catholicism in order to facilitate colonization of these lands. However, it was not until 1741—the time of the Vitus Bering expedition, when the territorial ambitions of Tsarist Russia towards North America became known—that King Philip V felt such installations were necessary in Upper California.[22] Finally in 1769 Visitador General José de Gálvez sent the expedition of Junípero Serra and Gaspar de Portolà to found a mission at San Diego and presidio at Monterey, respectively, thereby securing Spain's claim to the entire Pacific Coast by right of discovery.[23] Two groups traveled from Lower California on foot, while a pair of packet ships (bearing supplies) traveled up the coast from the Baja Peninsula.[24][25]

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