Saturday, January 5, 2013

Mission San Gabriel Archangel

Along the Mission Trail

Mission San Gabriel Archangel is known as the "Godmother of the Pueblo of Los Angeles".  Fr. Junipero Serra sent two fathers to scout for a location between Mission San Diego and Mission San Carlos Borromeo (Carmel) in 1771, and they chose this spot in what is now the City of San Gabriel. They picked well.  This 4th mission was the most productive of them all.  Wheat, barley, corn, beans and lentils were harvested in abundance by the nearly 2,000 neophytes who were recruited from the native population.
When the Pueblo of Los Angeles, located only nine miles away, began to grow, this mission became a frequent stopping point for settlers, the military and travelers.  The famous Camino Real was literally located outside its door.  Having the largest vineyard in Alta California certainly helped its fame grow!

Its architecture is unique among the California missions.  The architect, Father Antonio Cruzado, hailed from Cordova, Spain, and therefore, used Moorish influences like capped buttresses, a vaulted roof and tall, narrow windows in its design.  It was built of stone, brick and mortar.  Because of its strong masonry, it was never completely destroyed during earthquakes, making it the best-preserved of all the missions.

On the day I visited, there was a wedding going on, so I could not see the inside of the church. (Note to self:  Don't go to active missions on a Saturday!)   The gardens, however, are beautiful and very different from the other missions.  Rather than roses and other flowering plants, there is a vast collection of succulents.  The ambiance is enchanting.  Much of the stone pathways, columns and walls are original.  An aqueduct, four large cisterns for making soap and other ruins are all a part of the garden.
As I continue my journey along the Mission Trail, I am struck by how different each mission is.  What will I remember from San Gabriel?  The ancient grapevines, orange trees and prickly pear cactus intertwined to create a botanic tapestry of mission life.

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