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Mission San Rafael Arcángel

Mission San Rafael Arcángel 

On December 14, 1817, Mission San Rafael Arcángel was established in what is now the city of San Rafael (previously, the Coast Miwok village of NANAGUANI), which is pronounced san rah fell’ by locals . Near the sidewalk is a life-size statue of Fr. Junípero Serra and a monument to Chief Marin, for whom the county is named. The mission was established as a “helper” mission to Mission Dolores in San Francisco. Since the original purpose of the mission was to care for the sick, it was named after St. Raphael the Archangel, the angel of bodily healing.

Mission San Rafael lacks a bell tower. The three original bells (one made in Mexico in 1820, another that arrived about 10 years later, and a third that was brought from a New England whaling ship) are usually displayed on a cross beam in front of the Mission (which is actually a replica of the original Mission chapel). The bells were absent on the day we visited the Mission.

The original chapel was very different from what we see in the interior today. The floor was dirt, and there were no windows or pews. In the current chapel, the main altar has a statue of St. Raphael. To the left is a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe and to the right, a statue of St. Joseph. The Stations of the Cross in the current chapel are from the 19th century. Although Mission San Rafael Arcángel was not intended to be a stand-alone mission originally, it was given full mission status on October 19, 1822.

In 1846, The Bear Flag Revolt rocked San Rafael. General John C. Fremont captured the mission and used it as headquarters for the United States military forces. He used the chapel as a stable. Fremont had spread rumors of impending action by the Mexican government against settlers and had encouraged rebellion. A group of men raised a flag in the center of Sonoma with a bear and a star on it to symbolize a California Republic.

In 1949, the current replica of the original Mission San Rafael Arcángel was constructed adjacent to the parish church on the approximate site of the original hospital mission. Worshippers still pray at Mission San Rafael Arcángel, and at the much larger San Rafael Church, just a bit farther uphill.

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

You can view higher-resolution photos (*generally* 7-30 megabytes, compressed) at the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Pro Gallery on Shutterfly™, where you can also order prints and gifts decorated with the photos of your choice from the gallery. Apparel and other gifts decorated with some of our most popular photos can be ordered from the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Store on CafePress®.  

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