The fourth of the 21 missions founded in Alta California is Mission San Gabriel Archangel. Founded in 1771, this mission is still an impressive, towering structure and well-worth the 25 minute drive east of Los Angeles to see it.
I’ve wandered through four other missions, but most of those visits were components of other trips. It seemed wrong to have already explored a mission all the way up in Carmel, but to have missed one less than 20 miles away from where I live. So, we set off to explore.
The walls of the mission are original despite surviving a number of earthquakes (the same can’t be said for the roof). Its simplistic beauty is momentarily stunning from the outside. In fact, as we took a moment to look at the bells, I became fascinated by examining the weather wear on the archways and the imposing buttresses. It’s odd to say that you feel the history of it, but it’s the best explanation for my reaction.
The church is still a highly active Catholic church, and the grounds welcome parishioners and tourists alike. The cemetery is the oldest in Los Angeles County. Within the grounds, you’ll be able to see the aqueduct, the soap and tallow vats, laundry and tanning dug-outs, a rebuilt mission kitchen and the court featuring 21 mission models, among other sights. The museum itself is in an adobe building constructed in 1812 which was at one time a series of rooms for things like weaving and sleeping quarters.
The fee is currently $6 for adults, and you should leave a couple of hours to explore everything properly.
Other Points of Interest
As you are already in the neighborhood, you may want to visit the Mission Playhouse and the Grapevine Arbor. Both share impressive architecture and a quiet beauty that beckons. The Mission Playhouse was built to present John Steven McGroaty’s Mission Play and was completed in1927. The Grapevine Arbor is part of the adult recreation center. The grounds are frequently used for weddings and other festivities and feature “the old mother grapevine” planted in 1861.
Do yourself a favor and pick up a sandwich at Pulciano’s Deli. The food is very reasonably priced, plentiful and fantastic. I think the secret is in the bread, but you be the judge. It’s directly across from the Mission Playhouse and less than a block from the Mission, so it’s an easy addition to your tour.