San Gabriel Arcángel

Mission San Gabriel Arcángel
Mission San Gabriel Arcángel. Courtesy of Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library.

History of Mission San Gabriel Arcángel

Mission San Gabriel was founded fourth in the chain on September 8, 1771, by Father Serra, near what would become the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles. Named for the Arcángel Gabriel, the mission stands as a reminder of how earthquakes can affect the California missions. A powerful tremor in 1987 prompted a major restoration effort to reinforce the entire mission church. Earthquakes in 1804 and 1812 also damaged the mission complex.

Mission San Gabriel sits in the foothills just east of downtown Los Angeles. It served as a trade center, positioned at the crossroads of three important trails. Like its three predecessors, Mission San Gabriel was forced to move from its original site. In 1775, the mission was moved three miles to its present location, to improve conditions for planting and cultivating the fields. Mission San Gabriel grew to be the “Pride of the Missions”. Far more productive than any other missions in California, San Gabriel provided many of the other missions with the necessities of life from its land. Mission San Gabriel is credited with introducing large scale viticulture to California.

Architecturally, San Gabriel is distinct among the California missions. Father Antonio Cruzado, the designer, was born in Cordova, Spain. His Moorish style is unique, and draws directly from the famous cathedral of Cordova, where the side walls feature capped buttresses. Cruzado and his associates finished construction of the church in 1805, using adobe brick and a tiled roof like that of Mission San Antonio. At its peak, the mission reached nearly 300 feet in length.

The cemetery at San Gabriel is the oldest in Los Angeles County. The walls were rebuilt in 1940 using the original foundations, and this crucifix is a memorial to the 6,000 Indians buried here. An active Roman Catholic Church, weddings and other religious services continue to take place at Mission San Gabriel, as they did in the early days of California history.

From Inside the California Missions
© David A. Bolton

Quick Facts

  • 4th mission
  • Founded on 9/8/1771, near later pueblos of Los Angeles
  • Named after archangel Gabriel
  • Major earthquake in 1987 prompted major effort to reinforce the church
  • Other previous earthquakes in 1804 and 1812
  • Location 20 minutes from downtown LA
  • Cross point for three important traveling trails
  • Designed by Father Antonio Cruzado, born in Cordoba
  • Style can be traced directly to the Cordoba cathedral
  • Side walls feature capped buttresses
  • Current church built in 1812
  • At its peak, the mission was 300 feet in length
  • Moved three miles from original location
  • Oldest cemetery in LA
  • 6,000 Indians buried there
  • In Mission days, one of Alta California’s leading producers of wine grapes

428 South Mission Drive
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Tel: 626-457-3048

Landmark Status
National Register of Historic Places
California State Landmark #158

Directions to the Mission
From I-10: Exit at New Avenue. Proceed north to Mission Drive and turn right.

Hours of Operation
9:00a - 4:30p daily, except New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, July 4th, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. Closes at noon on Christmas Eve. Please call 626-457-3048 for further information.

Gift Shop

Guided tours for groups of 20 or more. Please call 626-457-3048 for information.