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Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá is hailed as the first Franciscan mission in California, at the time, a province of New Spain. It's actually the site of a lot of "firsts." It was the site of the first Christian burial in Alta California, as well as the first public execution, in 1778, in nearby San Diego. The state's first vineyards were planted here as well, in 1769, by Father Serra, consisting of a variety brought to Mexico in the 16th century, but they did not survive; the first surviving plantings were cultivated at the nearby Mission San Juan Capistrano, but wine was eventually being produced in San Diego as well, by about 1871, and continued to be cultivated until at least 1823.

This mission was founded on July 16, 1769 by the famous, and often highly criticized Junipero Serra, in an area inhabited by he Kumeyaay native people, who had occupied the region since the late Paleoindian period. Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo documented the native peoples he encountered during his exploration of the California coast in the sixteenth century. He was the first European to arrive in what is now the State of California (although this is disputed), when his ships the San Salvador and the Victoria sailed into the San Diego Bay in September, 1542. The Spanish began to more aggressively colonize the region when they became aware of Russian efforts to reach North America. As such, King Philip V of Spain began to found missions in the area to establish a foothold in the region to secure Spanish holdings along the Pacific coast. In 1834, however, the governor issued a "Decree of Confiscation," which broke up the mission property into ranchos, which were then granted to former military officers. Mission San Diego was granted to Santiago Arguello by then-governor Pio Pico, but following the annexation of California by the United States government, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation in 1862 which returned ownership of the missions to the Roman Catholic Church, if not all the property they had formerly controlled. The mission at San Diego was in ruins by that time, but restoration efforts began in earnest.

The site has undergone many changes over the centuries: for example, the iconic whitewashed church, built in the early 19th century, is actually the fifth to stand on the site. The mission only became a parish church again in 1941 following extensive rebuilding efforts, and it was designated as a minor basilica in 1976 by Pope Paul VI. It's open to the public for tours.

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Additional Photos by Terez Anon (terez93) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 86 W: 78 N: 924] (1717)
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