Santa Cruz

Mission Santa Cruz
Mission Santa Cruz. Courtesy of Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library.

History of Mission Santa Cruz

Mission Santa Cruz, dedicated twelfth in the mission chain on August 28, 1791 by Farther Lasuén, is a tiny mission along the northern California coast. Unlike the rest of California’s missions, leaders did not name Santa Cruz after a saint, rather after the holy cross.

Although small in size, Mission Santa Cruz experienced a large string of misfortunes. First, a pueblo named Branciforte, was established on the other side of the river. Branciforte was founded with former prison convicts from Guadalajara. These settlers took land away from the Indians and used mission property at will.

Then, in 1818, the evil pirate Hippolyte de Bouchard was seen approaching the mission. De Bouchard had earlier vandalized Monterey, and for fear of a reoccurrence at Santa Cruz, the mission residence packed up valuables and fled to Mission Soledad. Unfortunately, some of the people from Branciforte took advantage of this mission vacancy and looted many of the remaining items left behind at Santa Cruz.

Secularization followed in 1834, depleting resources and causing the mission buildings to fall into disrepair. An 1845 earthquake toppled the church’s bell tower. Later, the earthquake of 1857 collapsed the mission buildings.

Completed in 1931, the current chapel is one-third the size of the original. The previous bell tower contained nine or ten bells, while today the replica contains only one. Inside the mission original paintings, statues and even a challis used by Father Serra, remain intact. The mission museum features vestments from significant periods in California history.

From Inside the California Missions
© David A. Bolton

Quick Facts

  • 12th Mission
  • Founded on 8/28/1791
  • One of the smallest missions today, as a replica sits on the original site
  • Named after the cross, rather than after a saint
  • Large string of misfortunes over the years
  • Criminals ransacked the property:
  • “Evil pirate,” de Bouchard was seen approaching. Everyone fled, so some people took advantage of the vacancy and stole items
  • Secularization brought the end of the mission system
  • Major earthquakes in 1856 and 1857 wrecked havoc
  • Smaller replica mission was completed in 1931
  • Original painting, statues, and a chalice used by Serra remain intact
  • Mission museum features vestments from significant periods of California history

126 High Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Tel: 831-426-5686

Landmark Status
National Register of Historic Places
California State Landmark #342

Directions to the Mission
From CA-17 South: Exit CA-1 toward Half Moon Bay. Merge onto CA-1 north. Turn left onto Mission Street. Turn left onto Emmett Street. The mission sits on the corner of Emmett and High Street.

Hours of Operation
Please call the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park at 831-425-5849 for information.

The Mision Galeria is a gallery of historic relics and contemporary religious art. The Galeria is open Tuesday-Saturday 10a - 4p and Sundays 10a - 2p, closed Mondays except after major holiday weekends. Please call 831-426-5686 for further information.

Picnic Area