Mission Santa Clara

Santa Clara de Asís Key Facts

Santa Clara de Asís was founded on January 12, 1777 and was the first mission in California to honor a female saint, Saint Claire of Assisi, a 13th century Italian nun. Also known as Mission Santa Clara, this mission is the site of the first and oldest university in California, Santa Clara University, which was founded in 1851.

General Information

Santa Clara de Asís

Founded:
January 12, 1777
Current Status:
An active Catholic Church of the Roman Catholic Dioces of San Jose that is the spiritual center of a modern Jesuit university.
Summary:
Santa Clara de Asís was founded on January 12, 1777 and was the first mission in California to honor a female saint, Saint Claire of Assisi, a 13th century Italian nun. Also known as Mission Santa Clara, this mission is the site of the first and oldest university in California, Santa Clara University, which was founded in 1851.

Key Facts About This Mission

Named For

Painting of Saint Clare Saint Claire of Assisi, a 13th century Italian nun, co-foundress with San Francis of the Order of Poor Clares or Clares.

Founding Missionaries

Frs. José Murguía and Tomás de la Peña Saravia

Indians Joining Mission

The mission was founded in the land of the Ohlone people. The Indians who lived in the Santa Clara area spoke Tamyen, one of eight Costanoan dialects. The neophytes ultimately included such groups as the Bay Miwok, Tamyen and Yokuts

Mission Site

Located on the southern end of San Francisco Bay in Santa Clara, on a site originally chosen by Juan Bautista de Anza, the Spanish Pathfinder.

The mission was originally founded as La Mision de Santa Clara de Thamien at the Costanoan village of Socoisuka on the Guadalupe River. The mission was destroyed and rebuilt on six successive occasions

Layout

Traditional quadrangle

Water Source

There was ample water from nearby streams and the Guadalupe River

Population

The highest mission population was 1,514, in 1795

Livestock

Santa Clara Cattle Brand The mission had the second largest livestock herd among the northern missions, a total of 20,320 animals in 1832 (10,000 cattle, 9,500 sheep, 55 swine, 730 horses and 35 mules)

Agricultural Output

Mission Santa Clara harvested approximately 118,000 bushels of grain and produce between 1782 and 1832

Mission Church

Burning of old Santa Clara Church in 1926The current church is a tasteful modern interpretation of the mission's fifth church constructed in 1825. The 1825 church was completely destroyed in a devastating fire in 1926.

Mission Bells

Four bells hang in the companario, one of them an original donated to the mission in 1798 by King Carlos IV of Spain, who donated a second bell in 1799.

The 1799 bell was broken during the 1929 fire that destroyed the Church. In 1929, King Alphonse XIII of Spain donated a replacement bell and this bell is still in use.

Mission Art and Artifacts

Historic cross in front of mission• A tall cross erected in 1777 stands across from the Church entrance.

Significant Event(s)

Aerial view of campus In 1851, authority for Santa Clara was transferred to the Jesuits and the old mission became the nucleus of Santa Clara University

Interesting Facts

A four-mile Alemeda (or four-mile long road lined with willow trees) connected the mission and the nearby pueblo of San Jose.

The bells of Santa Clara have rung faithfully each evening since 1798 by request of King Carlos IV.

Santa Clara was the first California mission to honor a female saint.

Site of the first college, and the oldest university in California, founded in 1851.

Additional Information
  • Margaret, A. (2000). Mission Santa Clara de Asís. (Powerkids Press, California Missions Series)
  • Spearman, A.D. (1963). Five Franciscan Churches of Mission Santa Clara.
  • Skowronek, R.K. & Thompson, E. (2006). Situating Mission Santa Clara de Asís: 1776-1851, Documentary and Material Evidence of Life on the Alta California Frontier: A Timeline. (The most complete history of the mission that is available.)

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