Mission San Diego de Alcalá is the oldest of the 21 missions in California, and the first link in the "chain" of missions that stretches 650 miles northward along the California coast.
Arriving at the Mission, we saw the beautiful campanario, a wall adjoining the church with niches for holding bells. All five bells are only rung in unison on July 16, the anniversary of the founding of the Mission in 1769 by Father Junipero Serra.
Our first stop on the tour of the Mission was the living quarters of Father Serra. The rope ladder made the climb into bed a literal one.
The Mission serves as an active parish for the area's Catholic community. The simplicity of its interior and carved altar conveyed a serenity that revealed the meaning of peace and the Golden Rule more clearly than all the towering, ornate cathedrals of the world.
We both sat in the church for several minutes listening to a recording of a choir that was just barely audible.
The Mission is currently located in Mission Valley, six miles northeast of San Diego. I say "currently," because it has been built five times. In 1774, Mission San Diego de Alcalá was moved from a hill and built for the second time. The third time the Indians burned it down in 1775 and rebuilt it in 1780. The fourth time in 1803, the mission was destroyed in an earthquake. It was rebuilt and restored in 1813. In 1931, the mission was rebuilt to mirror the 1813 church.
Our walk around the grounds took us past this Crucifix. Its setting, too, encouraged contemplation.
These colorful panels contained simple line drawings of the Stations of the Cross.
This is a close-up photo of a portion of one of the panels. Each tile is about the width of a fingernail.
The chapel was built in 1977. The throne and altar came from a Carmelite monastery in Plasencia, Spain and date back to the 1300's.
The choir stalls are grooved and fit so that no nails are used to hold them together. The seats raise up to allow the monks to stand in place while singing.
This is a view of the artwork on the choir stalls.
The garden became a formal part of the Mission after the rebuilding of the church in 1931. Represented in this garden are various plants such as palm trees, bougainvillea, aloe vera and roses.
The simple beauty of the grounds reflected the contemplative attitude initiated in the church and chapel.
Within the garden are crosses made from original mission tiles placed here in remembrance of all the Indian neophytes who died during the mission period.
Our visit to the Mission San Diego de Alcalá was much more than a typical sightseeing morning.