Santa Clara de Asís

Santa Clara de Asís

General Information


January 12, 1777 - The 8th California Mission

Also Called:

Mission Santa Clara

Current Status:

An active Roman Catholic Church in the Diocese of San José. Since 1851, it has been the spiritual center of what is now the University of Santa Clara.


Santa Clara de Asís was founded on January 12, 1777 and was the first mission in California to honor a female saint, Saint Claire of Assisi, a 13th century Italian nun. Also known as Mission Santa Clara, this mission is the site of the first and oldest university in California, Santa Clara University, which was founded in 1851.


500 E. Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95053
United States

Get Directions


Santa Clara University is five (5) miles from San José Airport and 35 miles from the San Francisco Airport.


408-554-4023 - Mission

408-554-4356 - University Book Store

Fees, Hours, Tours and Church Services

Please contact the Mission directly by telephone or by visiting the mission website for the most current information.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, it is best to check for current information.

Weddings and Other Special Services

Weddings have to be scheduled by calling the Mission office at 408-554-4023 or by visiting the wedding page on the Mission website. A year-and-a-half notice is strongly recommended. This is a popular place for weddings by those who have attended Santa Clara University and they are given preference.

Unique Attractions

Santa Clara is the oldest university in California. It developed from the Mission founded in 1777.

The church is an attractive "modern interpretation" of the 1825 church.

This is an active church serving the university and local community.

The Altar of Remembrance honoring those who have died.

There is a well-maintained rose garden to the right of the church. This was the site of a cemetery from 1820-1846.

Part of an original adobe wall has been preserved on the mission grounds. There is a plaque containing information about the walls in 1822.

The side view of the restored mission church shows the wooden cross erected in 1777. It now has a protective casing.

Mission Santa Clara Photograph by Jo Ga
Mission Santa Clara Photograph by Jo Ga
Santa Clara de Asis Altar of Remembrance
Santa Clara de Asis Altar of Remembrance
Santa Clara Mission Adobe Wall
Santa Clara Mission Adobe Wall
Santa Clara de Asis View of Church and Its Historic Cross
Santa Clara de Asis View of Church and Its Historic Cross

Other Historic Attractions

It is possible to visit Missions Santa Clara, San Jose and Santa Cruz in one full day if you start early.

Tips for Visitors

  • Enjoy Santa Clara for its unique history, landscaped grounds, and the vibrant spirit of a large Catholic University where a mission church is a center of campus life.
  • The campus bookstore has a small collection of material on the mission. This is not a mission gift shop.
  • The de Saisset Museum is well worth a visit but it is wise to check the website for hours when the museum will be open.

Year Secularized

1836 (one of the last missions to be secularized)

Year Returned to Catholic Church


Patron Saint (Named For)

Saint Clare of Assisi, considered the co-foundress (with Saint Francis) of the Order of Poor Clares.

Saint Clare of Assisi
Saint Clare of Assisi

Prominent Missionary Leaders

  • Founding Father President - Fr. Junípero Serra
  • Founding Missionaries - Fr. José Murguía and Fr. Tomás De la Peña Saravia
Santa Clara de Asis Portrait Fr. Junípero Serra
Santa Clara de Asis Portrait Fr. Junípero Serra

Indians Joining Mission

The mission was founded in the land of the Ohlone people. The Indians who lived in the Santa Clara area spoke Tamyen, one of eight (8) Costanoan dialects. The neophytes ultimately included such groups as the Bay Miwok, Tamyen, and the Yokuts.

Mission Site

Located on the southern end of San Francisco Bay in Santa Clara, on a site originally chosen by Juan Bautista de Anza, the Spanish Pathfinder.

The mission was originally founded as La Mision de Santa Clara de Thamien at the Costanoan village of Socoisuka on the Guadalupe River. The mission was destroyed and rebuilt on six successive occasions.

Mission Layout

Traditional quadrangle

Water Source

There was ample water from nearby streams and the Guadalupe River.


The highest mission population was 1,514 in 1795.


The mission had the second largest livestock herd among the northern missions, a total of 20,320 animals in 1832 - 10,000 cattle, 9,500 sheep, 55 swine, 730 horses, and 35 mules.

Santa Clara de Asis Cattle Brand
Santa Clara de Asis Cattle Brand

Agricultural Output

Mission Santa Clara harvested approximately 118,000 bushels of grain and produce between 1782 and 1832.

Mission Church

The current church is a tasteful modern interpretation of the mission's fifth church constructed in 1825.

The 1825 church was completely destroyed in a devastating fire in 1926.

Mission Santa Clara 1848
Mission Santa Clara 1848
Santa Clara Burning of the Mission 1926
Santa Clara Burning of the Mission 1926

Mission Bells

Four bells hang in the companario, one of them an original donated to the mission in 1798 by King Carlos IV of Spain who donated a second bell in 1799.

The 1799 bell was broken during the 1926 fire that destroyed the Church. In 1929, King Alphonse XIII of Spain donated a replacement bell and this bell is still in use.

Mission Art and Artifacts

A tall cross erected in 1777 stands across from the Church entrance.

Santa Clara de Asis Cross at Front Entrance
Santa Clara de Asis Cross at Front Entrance

Significant Event

In 1851 authority for Santa Clara was transferred to the Jesuits and the old mission became the nucleus of Santa Clara University.

Santa Clara University 1940
Santa Clara University 1940

Interesting Facts

  • A four-mile Alemeda (four-mile long road lined with willow trees) connected the mission and the nearby pueblo of San Jose.
  • The bells of Santa Clara have rung faithfully each evening since 1798 by request of King Carlos IV.
  • Santa Clara was the first California mission to honor a female saint.
  • Site of the first college, and the oldest university in California, founded in 1851.

For Additional Information

  • Margaret, A. (2000). Mission Santa Clara de Asís. (Powerkids Press, California Missions Series)
  • Spearman, A.D. (1963). Five Franciscan Churches of Mission Santa Clara.
  • Skowronek, R.K. & Thompson, E. (2006). Situating Mission Santa Clara de Asís: 1776-1851, Documentary and Material Evidence of Life on the Alta California Frontier: A Timeline. (The most complete history of the mission that is available.)