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Mission San Diego


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History of Mission San Diego: 1775 to the Present Day

Mission San Diego Before 1775

San Diego Mission History 1775 through 1779

The Kumeyaay village elders worried that their traditions were disappearing. When two escaped converts told of the mission's riches and how easy they would be to take, they decided to attack. Around midnight on November 5, 1775, some 800 natives approached. Father Jayme walked out with arms outstretched, saying: "Love God, my children". The natives stripped, beat and killed him and two others, burning all the buildings. The survivors fled to the Presidio, where they stayed for several months.

Father Serra was at San Juan Capistrano and came back when he heard of the attack. Seven months later, governor Don Fernando de Rivera established order. They planned to rebuild and a 12-man guard was sent to protect the builders. Some of the natives greeted the fathers and helped with the building.

On October 16, 1776 the new church, built with high walls and deep foundations, was dedicated. San Diego Mission began to flourish. The natives never attacked again. Orchards and gardens produced food. Livestock multiplied. In 1780, the church was enlarged and built into the now-customary quadrangle. By 1787, there were 1,405 converts.

San Diego Mission History 1800-1830s

In 1803, an earthquake destroyed the buildings. The priests started the present church building in 1808 and finished in 1813. A dam was built upstream in 1816.


After Mexico won independence from Spain, the missions were secularized. The land was supposed to go to the natives, but most of it went to dishonest politicians and their friends. San Diego Mission was given to a Mexican, Santiago Arguello, in 1846. In 1847, the United States cavalry took over California and used the church for barracks and a stable.

In 1862, the American government returned the lands to the Catholic church. By then, the building was weakened and decaying. In 1891, Father Antonio Ubach started raising money to restore it, and started a school for native Californians.

San Diego Mission in the 20th Century

Unfortunately, Father Ubach died in 1907 without completing the restoration. In 1915, the city's mayor raised money to continue. The restoration of San Diego Mission was finished in 1931. In 1941, San Diego Mission once again became a parish church. In 1976 Pope Paul VI made it a Minor Basilica.

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