Of the 21 California Missions this is the third most n ortherly and the sixth to be established under the direction of Father Junipero Serra. Lieutenant José Joaquin Moraga led the group that arrived in this area on June 27, 1776. A scouting party had visited three months earlier and named a small stream nearby, Arroyo de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores.
Father Francisco Paul, a co-worker of Father Serra, celebrated the first Mass in the area under a makeshift shelter on June 29, and thus the City of Saint Francis had its official begining five days before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The formal establishment of the Mission of Saint Francis was delayed until the arrival of the necesssary Church documents and took place on October 9, 1776.
The Diorama: Created for the 1939 World's Fair on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, it shows what the area looked like around 1791. The Mission complex is extensive including the Church on the left, the Convent runs across the front (where the Franciscans and their guests stayed) and a long building on the right which was the granary. To the back are shops and servant quarters. Buildings to the far right housed soldiers and civilians based at the Mission.
The Basilica: The few steps on the right lead to the side door of the parish church. While the Mission withstood the shock of the 1906 earthquake, the parish church was not so fortunate and the present building was completed in 1918. In 1952 Pope Pius XII designated this a Basilica, an honorary Church of the Pope. The partially opened red-and-gold umbrella on the right side of the altar and the carvedc oat of arms with the papal insignia on the left are th emarks of a Basilica.
The beautiful stained-glass window at the rear of the Church pictures Saint Francis Assisi, patron of the Mission and the City of San Francisco. The upper side windows represent angels. The lower side windows depict the 21 California Missions along with two in honor of Fathers Serra and Palou.
High above the main altar and set against the sunburst pattern is a wood carving of Mater Dolorosa, Our Lady of Sorrows. The Seven Sorros of Mary are depicted individually on the front of each of the two side balconies, with the first sorrow depicted in a similar carving over the main door at the rear of the Church. The oval mosaics depict the Apostles.
From the entry point, the shrines are Martin de Porres, (and then counter-clockwise) Sacred Heart of Jesus, Our Lady of Perpetucal Help, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Shrine of the Deceased and Señor de los Milagros, Saints Anne and Mary, and Saint Rita.
The Cemetery: The statue in the center of the garden is of Father Junipero Serra as sculpted by Arthur Putnam, an early California artist. Burials in Mission Dolores Cemetery toook place from the earliest days of the Mission until the 1890's. Originally the Cemetery covered a much larger area. The first grave markers were simple wooden crosses and deterioriated completely with the passage of time. Gradually the Cemetery was consolidatd to its present size. The unidentified bodies were reverently buried in a common grave.
Most of the extant markers designate people who died in the decades following the Gold Rush, when San Francisco was a rapidly growing City which experienced much illness and many early deaths. Many of those who are buried here have given their names to the streets of San Francisco.
Among the notable buried here are Don Luis Antonio Argüello, first governor of Alta California under Mexican rule; Don Francisco de Haro, first Alcalde (mayor) of San Francisco; three vicitms of the Vigilantes: James P. Casey, Charles Cora, and James "Yankee" Sullivan; and a French family killed in the explosion of the steamboat Jenny Lind.