San Francisco Solano

Mission San Francisco Solano. Image courtesy Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library.
Mission San Francisco Solano. Image courtesy Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library.

History of Mission San Francisco Solano

Mission San Francisco de Solano marks the end of the mission trail. This twenty-first and last mission was founded on July 4, 1823 in what is today the city of Sonoma. When the Franciscan Fathers erected this northern most mission, it culminated three hundred years of Spanish-Mexican settlement in California, which dated back to 1523. Mission San Francisco Solano was the only mission founded after Mexico’s independence from Spain, and the only mission founded without prior approval of the church.

Mission Solano was the brain child of Father José Altimira, who while working at nearby Mission San Francisco de Asís, became discontent and decided to start his own mission. After receiving permission from California Govenor Don Luis Arguello, a plan was created to close Mission San Francisco de Asís and San Rafael, and transfer goods and mission Indians to the new mission complex at Solano. While building Mission Solano, the workers stayed at these wood barracks, waiting for the permanent mission to be built of adobe. Yet, building was temporarily halted by an order from Father Presidente de Sarria as many in the diocese felt the era of the mission was coming to a close. Work was then allowed to be finished on the mission when it was agreed that Mission San Francisco de Asís and Mission San Rafael would not be closed.

Mission Solano is located across the street from the Sonoma military barracks, built in 1836 by General Vallejo. It is here where the first bear flag was raised over California on July 14, 1846, proclaiming California a republic while declaring independence from Mexico.

The church at Mission Solano was built in 1841 to replace the original structure that had collapsed. A lack of money prevented the Fathers from creating this mission church in the elaborate fashion they were accustom to in Europe. The eye above the altar is referred to as “the eye of heaven”, which the fathers said allowed God to keep a watchful eye on the church. Inside the church is a portrait of this missions patron saint, Francis Solano, a missionary to the Peruvian missions.

The earthquake of 1906 destroyed the mission, only to see it restored through the dedicated efforts of groups like The Historic Landmarks League. The legacy of the California missions lives on a Mission Solano as it does at the rest of this historic chain.

Quick Facts

  • 21st and final of the Alta California chain
  • Located in Sonoma
  • Northern most of the vast mission trails of the Americas
  • Founded on 7/4/1823
  • Culmination of 300 years of Spanish-Mexican arival in California, dating back to mid 1500’s
  • Located across the street from the Sonoma military barracks, built in 1836 by General Vallejo
  • Here, the first bear flag was raised over California, on 7/14/1846, declaring California’s independence from Mexico
  • Mission was the brainchild of Father Jose Altimira, who became discontent at Mission San Francisco de Asís and decided to start his own mission
  • Plan was to close Asís & San Rafael, transferring goods to Solano – but work was halted and only resumed once it was agreed that the other two missions would not be closed
  • Church was built in 1841 to replace the original structure
  • Lack of money prevented elaborate decoration
  • Eye above the altar – “Eye of Heaven” – fathers said it allowed God to keep an eye on the church
  • Portrait of patron saint – Francis Solano, missionary to Peru
  • Solano museum features coveted Chris Jorgenson paintings
  • Mission destroyed by an earthquake in 1906, but restored by groups like the Historic Landmarks League

Address
114 East Spain Street, Sonoma, CA 95476
Located in a State Historic Park.
Tel: 707-938-1519

Landmark Status
California Historic Landmark #3

Directions to the Mission
From I-580 : I-580 west/US-101 north. Exit CA-37 towards Vallejo/Napa. Stay straight to CA-116 to Sonoma. The mission is located in the plaza in the center of the town of Sonoma.

Hours of Operation
10a - 5p daily, closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Please call 707-938-1519 to confirm.