Mission Santa Cruz: California’s 12th Mission

Mission Santa Cruz was founded in 1791 and was the 12th of the 21 Spanish Missions founded. Unfortunately, nothing remains of the original mission today, other than a crumbling wall in the city of Santa Cruz. The rebuilt mission is now across the street from where the original was, and it was built in the 1930s based on a painting they had of the original mission. It is a tiny mission to visit, and you can see it all in about 20 minutes, but it is still an excellent historical spot in the city. Here is all the information, and you can read about my time visiting all of the California Missions here.

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Getting There

Mission Santa Cruz is located right off Pacific Coast Highway on the north end of the main downtown drag. There is street parking around the mission that is free.

The Mission

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When I arrived, I was surprised by how small this mission was; it is a spot where you can spend 20 minutes and easily see it all.

The woman working there was fantastic, and she spent a reasonable amount of time telling me about the mission and its history. I would not have had as good of a time if she was not there to direct me.

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She let me know that the mission initially stood across the street where the massive church in the photo above is now and that you can go over there and see the remains of the old wall behind the church.

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I did that first, and it was cool to see it still there (above photo), then I went back and explored the current mission.

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Since it was built at half the original size, the museum portion of the mission is inside the gift shop. There are five main displays featuring garments worn and a few other artifacts.

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They also have the painting that the mission was designed to replicate. They believe this mission may have been an L and not a quadrangle like most of the others.

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After browsing the museum, I went out into the garden. The garden is small as well, but it features a lovely fountain in the middle.

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It also has the typical statue of Father Serra in the garden as well.

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From here, you can see the top of the large church that stands on the old mission ground popping up from behind the wall.

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After browsing the garden, I headed back in and saw the chapel.

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The chapel here is tiny, as I’m sure you could have guessed, with only a dozen or so pews. They do hold Mass here on the weekends though, so it is a working chapel.

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I was the only one there so I took some time to explore and look around a little bit.

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After finishing my time in the chapel, I said my goodbyes to the nice woman working there then headed back out to see the mission from the front.

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Even though this is not a long visit, it is still a great 15 minute stop. Especially since it is a free mission that is trying to maintain California’s mission history. If you want to see an original part of one of the buildings built around the mission, be sure to head two minutes down the street to Santa Cruz State Historic Park as well. Lastly, check out all of the missions I visited here and let me know what you think in the comments.

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