The email read, “your mission, should you choose to accept it…”, ok not really, but the invitation to join Nina and Paul of Wheeling It at Mission San Diego de Alcalá was a great suggestion.
We have been fans of their wonderful blog for some time and when I discovered we were all to be in San Diego at the same time, I had hoped for a meet-and-greet and hooray, they were game. Excellent writing, photography, and RV tips are just a few reasons we are big fans of their blog, not to mention what a lovely couple they are .
During our time in Mexico, we found ourselves gravitating towards the magnificent churches in the lovely colonial cities we visited and have been drawn to the missions and churches in our travels ever since.
The far West gave birth to Christianity with the founding of Mission San Diego de Alcalá on July 16, 1769, by Franciscan priest Junípero Serra. This, the first of 21 California missions, dubbed the “Mother of the Alta California Missions”, provided a foothold for Catholicism in this corner of the world.
The naming of San Diego the city occurred ~225 years earlier than the founding of this first mission and was originally named San Miguel, after the saint whose feast day was closest to the landing of the first Spanish expedition here. In 1602 it was renamed San Diego, once again being named for the feast day closest to the fleet’s landing date in the harbor, that of Saint Didacus (San Diego) of Alcalá. And the name stuck!
The original site for the mission overlooked the bay but remained at this location a mere 5 years; the water supply was lacking and the soil was not fertile enough to sustain the crops. The decision was made by the pastor of the mission, Father Luís Jayme, to pick up stakes and move 6 miles to the east. This second site was closer to the river and the Kumeyaay Indians, with whom the friar had a good rapport. The Kumeyaay were hunters and gatherers and fairly nomadic, not unlike we RVers. Unfortunately a few rogue Indians incited hundreds of others to riot and during this uprising, Father Jayme lost his life and the mission was burned to the ground.
Father Jayme became California’s first Christian martyr and his body is interred under the altar in the present-day church.
Many arduous years passed before this mission was to be rebuilt and become productive but it did, having its most plentiful year for both crops and Christian conversions in 1797.
When Mexico gained her independence from Spain in 1821, the Mexican government did not have the same allegiance to the missions as the Spanish, and the United States (having acquired this land from Mexico) strayed from the original intent and allowed the missions to be occupied by the Calvary. They moved on in 1859 and it sat vacant for many years until becoming a school for American Indian children for 17 years. In 1862 Abraham Lincoln signed an order to restore ownership of the Mission proper to the Roman Catholic church.
The mission that stands on the current grounds is the 5th church on this site. In 1976, Mission San Diego de Alcalá was named a basilica, an honor bequeathed by Pope Paul VI. The mission continues to be an active parish today, staffed by secular priests.
The campanario (bell tower) deserves mention as it has an interesting history, I believe. Church bells across the world are rung to signify specific events during the day or the year, with different tones and sequences, and these are no exception.
Today there remains an original bell from 1802, that being one of the two larger bells on the bottom right in the above photo. When the King of Spain wanted bells forged for his missions, he insisted on a crown atop the bell. The large bell on the bottom left has been made from remnants of other original bells. All five bells are rung in unison only once a year, that being the mission’s birthday.
Apparently we all worked up an appetite while getting our history lesson for the day, so decided on an early lunch at the Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill, another great recommendation by Nina and Paul, found while watching Diners, Drive-ins & Dives on the Food Network.
I have heard it said that you can tell who the bloggers are in a restaurant as they are the ones taking pictures of their food. While I don’t often do this, I had to make an exception before I dove into this gastronomic feast. They tasted even better than they look and yes, I ate the whole thing!
With full stomachs and smiles on our faces, we headed over to Nina and Paul’s pad to meet the rest of the family. Polly, a border-collie mix, is just as spunky and beautiful as her pictures; Taggart, an orange tabby, is very sleek and elegant; and Rand was being a cat, very independent, and not accepting visitors on this particular day. We can only vouch for her existence by her pictures and the lump we saw under the comforter!
All-in-all it was a truly lovely day and we feel we have made some new friends, which is one of the fabulous bonuses of this lifestyle.
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