September 8, 1771 — Mission San Gabriel Archangel was formed today in San Gabriel, California. A fully functioning Roman Catholic mission, the settlement was founded by Spaniards of the Franciscan order on what is known as the Feast of the Birth of Mary.
This is the fourth of what will become 21 Spanish missions in California.
Named after the Archangel Gabriel — and often referred to as the “Godmother of the Pueblo of Los Angeles” — this mission was designed by Father Antonio Cruzado of Córdoba, Spain. He ensured the building would have a strong Moorish architectural influence. The capped buttresses and the tall, narrow windows are unique among the missions of the California chain.
Prior to the creation of missions, native-Americans developed a complex, self-sufficient culture. But the goal of the missions was to become self-sufficient, and farming was the most important industry. Leaders believed the native Tongva people were inferior and in need of conversion to Christianity. The mission priests established what they thought of as a manual training school, with the goal of teaching Indians their style of agriculture, mechanical arts, and the raising and care of livestock. The missions produced everything they used and consumed.
Indeed, post-1811, the mission Indians were able to sustain the entire military and civil government of California.
Words of Wisdom
Legend has it that the founding expedition of the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel was confronted by a large group of native Tongva peoples whose intention was to drive the strangers away. One of the padres laid a painting of Our Lady of Sorrows on the ground for all to see, whereupon the natives, designated by the settlers as the Gabrieliños, immediately made peace with the missionaries, because they were so moved by the painting's beauty. Today the 300-year-old work hangs in front of and slightly to the left of the old high altar and reredos in the Mission's sanctuary.