Top Banner
Home Page Button   Beginnings of the Mission
Teacher Information Button   Mission Santa Clara was the 8th Mission founded in the Alta California mission chain. The Mission was founded on January 12, 1777 by Father Jose Murguia and Father Tomas de la Pena. The Mission was named after Saint Clare of Assisi. Saint Clare was a nun that founded the order of the Poor Clares.
For Parents Button  
Mission History Button   Location and Geography
Sources Button   The Mission was near the pueblo of San Jose. San Jose was the first Pueblo to be built that was secular, or not sponsored by the Catholic Church. Life at the Pueblo was very rough and the citizens of the Pueblo didn’t get along with the Priests at the Mission. There were disagreements between the Pueblo and the Mission over cattle, water, and land. The Priests tried to entice the Pueblo’s citizens to visit the Mission by building a road lined with trees from the Pueblo to the Mission. They named this road ’The Alameda’. Their idea didn’t work, but the road made it easier for travelers to reach the Pueblo.
Bibliography History Button  
Top of Page Button   The Native Americans
    The main tribe in the area around Mission Santa Clara was the Ohlone. Like most of the other tribes in California, the Chumash were nomadic. That means that they lived in one area for a time and would move their entire community to follow herds for food or when too much garbage piled up they would burn down the old ones and find another site to build their homes. Men hunted and fished to provide food while the women gathered acorns, wild herbs, roots, and berries to help feed their families. The Ohlone "lived by three rules: work hard, do not complain, and behave in a good way." (Margaret, Pg. 13) The Ohlone didn’t need the Mission’s help and were reluctant to move to the Mission. At one point the Ohlone village’s children were threatened by a disease and the Mission’s fathers went to help. The soldiers helped the Ohlone to bring their children to the Mission. These children and their parents were some of the first to convert from their old tribal ways to life at the Mission. After a slow start the Mission baptized 8,536 Natives from 1777 and 1832.

Top of Page Button   Architecture and Layout
    The Fathers followed a regular plan for creating the layout of the mission buildings. Right after blessing the site the Fathers and the soldiers would start building a small building to hold the religious ceremonies, called a Mass. They would encourage local Natives to help them. Many often did; they were fascinated by the tools and gifts that the Fathers had brought with them. The first buildings would be built of wood poles and brush. Eventually the buildings would be replaced by larger adobe brick or stone buildings. After a chapel or church was finished where the Fathers and Neophytes could hold Mass they would start building the Convento. The Convento was where the Fathers would live. Next would come workshops and the Monjerio. The Monjerio was where unmarried girls and women would live and be locked in at night. The Fathers didn’t think that unmarried girls and women should live near single men. Eventually there would be enough buildings for four sides of a square or quadrangle. The Mission complexes weren’t perfect squares because the Fathers didn’t have a way to measure distance other than walking off distances. Most Missions included a fountain. The fountain was used for washing, laundry, and water. The more fancy the fountain the more successful the Mission.

Mission Santa Clara followed the standard quadrangle shape of most of the other Missions. The site of the Mission was changed five times. The first church had been too close to the Guadalupe river and was flooded in 1779. The Mission was moved and the next church was completed in 1784. A third church was constructed that had beautiful paintings and decorations. Two earthquakes in 1812 and 1818 caused the Mission to be moved again. The fourth church was temporary and a fifth and final replacement was finished in 1825.

Top of Page Button   Life at the Mission
    Life at the Mission was difficult for both the Fathers and the Natives. During the early years most Missions had trouble supporting themselves and depended on deliveries of supplies and food from New Spain and other Missions. Often the ships were unable to make the trip and the Mission’s members went hungry. It normally took several years before a Mission was able to plant enough food and raise enough cattle and other animals to be able to feed everyone who lived at the Mission.

Those that lived at the Mission went by a strict schedule. The Fathers were used to this type of lifestyle, but the neophytes were not. The structure of Mission life was one of the reasons many Native Californians tried to leave. A French explorer, Jean François de La Pérouse, visited Mission San Carlos is 1786 and wrote a detailed account of what he observed. Events at the Mission were signaled by the ringing of the Mission bells. Each day started around sunrise (about 6am). The Mission bells would ring to wake everyone and summon them to Mass and morning prayers. Prayer lasted for about an hour and then everyone would go to breakfast. Atole, a type of soup made from barley and other grains, would be served. Breakfast took about 45 minutes and then it was time for everyone to go to work.

The Fathers were responsible for running the Mission and instructing the new converts and children in the Catholic faith. Most of the men went to the fields to tend to the crops or to help with the animals while women stayed at the Mission and worked on domestic chores such as weaving cloth and making clothes, boiling down fat to make soap and candles, and tending to the vegetable gardens. Children often helped at these chores around the Mission once their religious instruction was over. Depending on the particular industry at the Mission there also might be neophytes leatherworking, metalworking, wine making, and pressing olives for olive oil.

At noon the bells would ring again for everyone to gather for dinner, what we would call lunch. Lunch was normally pozole, another thick soup with beans and peas. After an afternoon break everyone returned to their work for another two to four hours depending on how much work there was to be done. A last bell would be rung to end the work day. Another serving of Atole would be served and the neophytes would be able to rest until it was time for bed (Margolin, Pg. 85). Women were usually expected to go to bed by 8pm and men by 9pm. Most of the Fathers allowed their neophytes to continue to hunt and gather additional foods and to cook some of their traditional dishes.

Living at the Mission was often difficult for new converts. They were used to working when work needed to be done and resting when they were tired. The Mission lifestyle was different. The Neophytes were the main source of labor for the Missions. It was their hard work along with the soldiers’ and Fathers’ that built the Missions and their outbuildings. Agriculture and ranching required constant tending to the crops and animals. Without this labor the Missions would not have been able to survive. Many neophytes missed the freedom of their tribal life and would try to leave the Mission. The Fathers wouldn’t allow neophytes to leave and would send soldiers to search for them and bring them back. Runaways were usually punished for breaking the rules.

The Mission was surrounded by good soil and was able to produce a number of different crops including peaches, apricots, apples, pears, figs, and grapes. They also raised cattle and the neophytes were known for their ability to weave cloth.

Top of Page Button   The End of the Mission Period
    The Mission was secularized in 1837. In 1851 the Mission’s operations were transferred from the Franciscans to the Jesuits. In 1851 the Franciscans offered the site to a Jesuit priest, John Nobili to start the first college in California. The school was opened in March 1851 and renamed Santa Clara University in 1912. The Mission is on the grounds of Santa Clara University.

Top of Page Button   Reconstruction and The Mission Today
    Mission Santa Clara Fire, October 23, 1926In 1926 the old Mission church was destroyed by fire. A new replacement made of concrete was finished in 1929. The designers did their best to reproduce the murals and paintings that had been in the original Mission church as well as including statues and a bell that had been saved from the fire.
    How to Reference this Page
    To Reference or Cite this page you will need 5 items of information:

  • The Author’s Name: Tricia Weber
  • The Title of the Page: (Look at the banner at the top of the page.)
  • The Date the Page was Last Updated: August 18, 2006
  • The URL(Web Address) of the Page: (Look in the Address Bar at the top of the page.)
  • The Date you Visited the Page: Use today’s date.
If you need more help check out the How to Cite Sources page.