The California Mission in Sonoma is the northernmost of the missions and the last that was built. It was the only mission built after Mexico gained its independence from Spain. The eager founder of the Mission, Fr. Jose Altimira wanted to move the Mission San Francisco de Asis because of the climate and the late of many potential converts at that location. The Mexican government wanted to establish a presence in Sonoma to block any further migration of Russians past Fort Ross on the Pacific Coast. Father Altimira and the Governor Luis Arguello there went ahead and founded the mission and the first church was dedicated in 1824. However, the mission only survived for eleven years and the structures there slowly went into disrepair.
The current church is an authentic restoration of the 1840 church, rebuilt in 1911-13 with the support of the Historic Landmark League, which acquired the property in 1903. The last major restoration was in 1943-44. The church measures 105 feet long and is 22 feet wide. The wing that was the padre’s quarters is now a museum. What was the dining room in this section of the mission now displays mission paintings done by Chris Jorgensen between 1903-1905. The Mexican-era soldiers barracks (just across from the mission) has been restored and now contain a small museum and a gift shop.
The inside of the church is the most interesting part for me with all the brightly colored paint around the pulpit and altar (see photo collection below). If you visit there, it doesn’t take long to see it all.
Intereresting Facts from the Mission Resource Center:
- The mission was established by an overly eager padre acting without church approval.
- The Sonoma Mission is the only mission established during Mexican rule of Alta California.
- General Mariano Vallejo, who became Director of Colonization of the Northern Frontier in 1835, and who had control of Sonoma until the American takeover, “rescued” all the plantings from the mission vineyard after secularization and replanted the vines at his ranch.
- The names of the Indian neophytes of the Sonoma Mission have been carved into a commemorative wall on the west side of the mission church.
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