This week’s challenge from Liberated Traveler is the wonderful city of San Francisco, a place that found its way into my heart during the 1960s hippy movement when it was the world’s “City of Love”. I have already written extensively about this city and how it has messed with my head over the decades, so for this challenge I am going to tell you about the delightful Misión San Francisco de Asís, popularly known as Mission Dolores.
This is the oldest intact building in the City of San Francisco and the only intact Mission Chapel in the chain of 21 established under the direction of Father Serra. It is the third most northerly with only Sonoma and San Rafael further north and the sixth mission to be founded – June 29 1776. I have a ‘thing’ for the Californian missions, or as my husband would say, an obsession. For some reason I am drawn to their simplicity, their history and the tranquillity of their sites. As someone who is an atheist, this is odd, but no different I suppose than my general interest in churches and graveyards. One added bonus though is that the California Missions are all located on or near Highway 101, which roughly traces El Camino Real and I don’t need much more of an excuse to take a road-trip!
To find the mission you have to step outside the usual tourist areas of the city (Union Square, Alamo Square, Embarcadero and Fisherman’s Wharf) and head to Mission District. The 16th Street Mission Station is the nearest BART, and the mission itself is on the corner of 16th Street and Dolores Street. Much of Mission Dolores is original with adobe walls and redwood logs supporting the roof. The gilded reredos came from Mexico in 1796 and the colourful wall paintings are good examples of early California art. Whilst I was there a school trip was visiting and the children seemed more interested in me and my camera than the teacher who was telling them about the history of the site. I on the other hand was very interested.
The Basilica is a few steps away, but although the Mission survived the 1906 earthquake, the parish church wasn’t so fortunate. The present building dates from 1918. It contains some beautiful stained windows, including angels and 21 California Missions and a lovely sunburst pattern.
There is also a little museum on the site, but my favourite part has to be the cemetery. Most of the headstones are of people who died in the decades following the Gold Rush when San Francisco was growing fast with many illnesses and early deaths. Many people buried here gave their names to the streets of San Francisco.
So my advice to you is that if you are lucky to travel to the lovely city of San Francisco, try and make some time ( a couple of hours will suffice) to visit this beautiful historic site – you won’t regret it.