The Twentieth of the California Missions
December 14, 1817
Mission of Bodily Healing.
Saint Rafael, patron of good health and travelers.
Originally a hospital asistencia. Raised to full mission status on October 19, 1822.
Founding Father President:
Fr. Vincente de Sarría
Fr. Luis Gil y Taboada
15 miles north of San Francisco at the native site of 'Anaguani. Since San Rafael was intended to be a "hospital" asistencia, a key consideration was that the location be in a sunnier and more protected environment than San Francisco, which was foggy, damp and windy. The original mission buildings were razed in 1870. In 1919 the new St. Raphael Parish Church, with an imposing tower, was built on the site of the original chapel.
No effort was made to build a full complex. The initial building was a structure that measured 87 feet in length and 42 feet in width. It contained a hospital, chapel, padre's quarters and a storage area.
There was ample water in the area finally selected, which had several springs and a stream.
The peak mission population was 1,051, in 1826. By 1840 only 150 neophytes remained. Between 1817 and 1839 1,902 marriages were conducted at San Rafael.
The herd was small by mission standards, but important for feeding the neophytes. In 1832 the mission had 2,120 cattle, 3,000 sheep, 370 horses ... and 2 hard-working mules.
In its short mission life (17 years) San Rafael had a relatively high agricultural output of approximately 97.000 bushels of grain and produce. Production centered on wheat although barley, corn and beans were also important with peas, lentils and chickpeas used in soups and stews. The mission had extensive vineyards and orchards, and was noted for the excellence of their pears.
In 1949 a replica of the original mission chapel was constructed on mission property to the right of the main church built in 1919. The replica has a Mudejar or star window said to have been copied from that at the Carmel Mission.
Three of the original mission bells are now displayed in the mission museum. Replicas now hang from a wooden bell rack to the left of the chapel entrance. San Rafael never had a companario.
The interior of the chapel is contemporary in style. Saint Rafael Parish Church has a large bronze sculpture of San Rafael holding up a cross.
San Rafael was badly damaged in an Indian attack led by Chiefs Marin and Quintin in February, 1829. Loyal neophytes saved the life of the mission padre, Fr. Juan Amoros, by hiding him in the marshes.
Year Returned to Catholic Church:
The mission Chapel is used for special events and is part of the parish of St. Rafael of the Roman Catholic Archiocese of San Francisco.
Indians Joining This Mission:
Primarily Coast Miwok and Pomo
Under the able leadership of Fr. Gil y Taboada, San Rafael becme California's first sanitarium.
San Rafael maintained a substantial boat building operation, since boats were required to facilitate travel across the bay.
In 1846 John C. Fremont used the mission as his headquarters during the Mexican American War
After the mission ruins were removed in 1870, all that remained of the old mission site was a solitary pear tree. In 1909 the Native Sons of the Golden West erected a bell and sign on the original site.