Mission San Jose


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San Jose

Mission San Jose
Mission Interior Front
Mission Interior Rear
Mission Side Altar detail
San Jose Side Altar
Mission Courtyard Fountain
Exterior Side
San Jose Courtyard
San Jose Exterior Side
San Jose Mission Exterior
Side Altar
San Jose Main Altar Detail

Fourteenth Mission
Date Founded: June 11, 1797
Founder: Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen
Named for: St. Joseph
P.0. Box 3159
43300 Mission Blvd at Washington Blvd,
Fremont, CA 94539

Contact Information:
Telephone: (510) 657-1979


The Mission Church and museum are open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are closed on New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

San Jose mission is the only mission east of the San Francisco Bay Many sources incorrectly name Mission San Jose as Mission San Jose de Guadalupe. The only connection between San Jose Mission and the city of San Jose is that they are both named for St. Joseph.


The Franciscan missionaries hoped to create a "chain" of missions which would be a day's ride apart on horseback. In 1796, they were well on their way with 13 missions along the California coast from San Diego to San Francisco. El Camino Real, the road joining them, was a well-traveled road joining north and south, but there were still long dangerous stretches with no mission nearby. Father Lasuen and the new governor decided to build 5 more missions, and Mission San Jose was the first of the five.

Establishment of Mission San Jose

Mission San Jose was founded June 11, 1797 by Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, Presidente of the California Missions Chain. The site was part of a natural highway by way of the Livermore Valley to the San Juaquin Valley. It is the fourteenth of the 21 Spanish Missions in Alta California. They were founded to secure Spain's claim to this land and to teach the native people Christianity and the Spanish way of life. When this mission was founded it was named "LA MISION DEL GLORIOSISIMO PATRIARCH SAN JOSE" in honor of our patron of St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus Christ and Patron of the Universal Church.

The site chosen for the only mission on the east side of San Francisco Bay had been inhabited for countless generations -by the Ohlone Indians. Their village at this site was known as Orisom. The Ohlones lived close to the land in harmony with nature, taking what they needed for their sustenance but never wasting irreplaceable resources. What we could call ecology was a way of life for them. Their food included seeds, roots, berries, acorn meal, small game and seafood. Three years after the founding of Mission San Jose, several hundred Ohlones had come to live at the Mission. They were introduced to a new way of life by the Spanish Franciscan missionaries. Thousand of cattle roamed the mission ranges. Acres of wheat and other crops were planted and harvested under the direction of the padres.

After the dedication, the soldiers quickly built shelters for themselves and the priests and within 3 weeks, there were seven more buildings laid out in a rectangle (instead of the usual square pattern of other missions). The mission received supplies and gifts from the nearby missions to help them get started, including over 500 head of cattle and large flock of sheep from Mission Santa Clara.

Mission Life

The mission day began with Mass and morning prayers, followed by instruction of the natives in the teachings of the Catholic faith. After a generous breakfast of atole (porridge), the able bodied men and women of the mission were assigned their tasks for the day, The women were assigned to dressmaking, knitting, weaving, embroidering, laundering, and cooking. Some of the stronger girls would grind flour or carry adobe bricks (weighing 55 lbs. each) to the men engaged in building.

The men did a variety of jobs, having learned from the missionaries how to plow, sow, irrigate, cultivate, reap, thresh, and glean. In addition, they were taught to build adobe houses, tan leather hides, shear sheep, weave rungs and clothing from wool, make ropes, soap, paint, and other useful articles.

The work day was six hours, interrupted by dinner and a two-hour siesta, and ending with supper and social activities. About 90 days of the year were religious or civil holidays, free from manual labor.

Mission San Jose was the center of industry and agriculture. The site was chosen for the abundance of natural resources of the area including water, fertile ground, stones, and Adobe soil suitable for building. In 1810, it produced 4,070 bushels of wheat and much produce, including grapes, olives, and figs. In 1832, the mission's l2,000 cattle, 13,000 horses, and 12,000 sheep roamed mission lands from present day Oakland to San Jose.

The Ohlone Indians did not want to change their way of living and in the beginning, the fathers found it difficult to get them to move to the mission. Only thirty three Indians were living at the mission at the end of that first year. However, the mission was important militarily, located near the western approach to the Central Valley.

Around 1805, Fr. Buenaventura Fortuni and Fr. Narcisa Duran, came to the mission. They worked together to attract the Indians and trained them as weavers, blacksmiths, rope makers, leather tanners, tile and adobe brick makers, shoemakers and carpenters. The women learned to sew, spin, cook, launder and do needlework.

The mission's permanent adobe church was dedicated with great ceremony April 22, 1809. Contruction had started in 1805. It was a simple, solid building with walls 8 feet thick in some places. Valuable gifts of vestments, sacred vessels, religious statues, and paintings attested to the generosity of friends of the mission in the Bay Area and abroad. The majority of vestments in our collection date from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The silken fabrics and embroideries are products of various textile centers of the Spanish Empire, whose suppliers extended from Europe to Asia.

The mission prospered in the 1800s and it controlled all the land around it, north almost to Oakland, east into the Livermore Valley and up through the Sacramento Delta and west towards the San Francisco Bay. The small herd of 500 cattle grew to 350,000 - the largest herd of any of the missions. With so much land, the mission's agricultural output was second only to Mission San Gabriel and its olive oil production was the highest of any mission. By 1816 the mission was trading Indian-made goods for coffee, sugar, spices,hardware, fabrics and supplies. They even bought a boat and sailed across the San Francisco Bay to trade with ocean-going ships.

New homes were added as needed because by 1825 the mission had over 1,800 Indians living there and in 1830 there were 2,000 making it the largest Indian population for any of the northern missions.

In 1833, Mission San Josť was one of the most prosperous California Missions. A church inventory, listed the church building, monastery, guardhouse, guest house, and women's dormitory, in addition to the thousands of acres of crop and grazing land.


In 1833, Mission San Jose was one of the most prosperous of all the California Missions. An inventory, of the time lists a church, monastery, guardhouse, guest house, and women's Dormitory, in addition to the thousands of acres of crop and grazing land. This prosperity was not to last long. A decree of secularization by the Mexican government in 1934 removed the Missions from the administration of the padres and brought the mission system to an end. Jose de Jesus Vallejo was appointed civil administrator and the mission lands were divided into ranchos. The native people fled but found themselves unable to readjust tc their former way of life. Many of them died of disease and starvation. The mission buildings, granaries, orchards, and gardens were allowed to decay. The great herds scattered.

In 1833 leadership of the mission was given to the Mexican church leader Friar Rubio. The Spanish priests left, Jose de Jesus Vallejo was appointed civil administrator and within three years the mission lands, which were supposed to be given to the Indians, were divided into ranchos. The mission itself was apparently plundered by Vallejo and there was little left to sell.

Saint Innocent of Alaska, Equal to the Apostles and Enlightener of North America visited the original Mission San Jose in September 1836. He traveled as far south as Monterey to check on reports that the Spaniards were cruelly mistreating local Native American people, but, after conversing with Padre Gonzales Rubio in Latin, he was relieved to find that young Padre Rubio of Mission San Jose was a good pastor. In 1839, following the death of his wife, he entered the monastic life, taking the name Innocent, and was elected the first resident bishop of Alaska. In 1868, Bishop Innocent was appointed Metropolitan of Moscow--the titular leader of the largest Orthodox church in the world. Metropolitan Innocent's evangelical zeal never diminished, and he founded the Russian Mission Society, which supported Orthodox missionaries until 1917. He became one of the first saints canonized in America in 1977.

Decline and Rebirth

At the end of the Mexican War, in 1848, Alta California was ceded to the United States. During the Gold Rush, H.C. Smith converted the mission to a place of lodging and added a general store to the south end of the mission wing. The town of Misslon San Jose became a thriving provision center at the gateway to the southern mines. names of many pioneer families prominent in early California history--Livermore, Peralta, Alviso--were closely linked to the Mission.

In 1858, the United States government returned a small percentage of the mission lands to the Catholic Church.

Ten years later, on October 21, 1868, a giant earthquake centered on the Hayward fault shattered the walls of the mission church and broke open the roof. The site was cleared and a wood Gothic-style church was erected directly over the original red tiled mission floor. In 1890, a victorian rectory was built over the site of a portion of the adobe wing which housed the padres and served as the administration building the Mission period.

The original mission complex consisted of over 100 adobe buildings. Restoration efforts by the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West in 1915 and 1950 saved the surviving portion of the mission wing and converted it into a museum set in gracious surroundings of flowers and palm trees.

In 1956, the town of Mission San Jose incorporated with four others to become the City of Fremont. Plans to reconstruct the church of Mission San Jose were launched in 1973. The Victorian Rectory was relocated to nearby Anza Street and the Gothic wooden church was moved to San Mateo where it has been restored as a house of worship by an Anglican church group.


After extensive archeological excavations and planning, construction began in 1982 on a replica of the 1809 adobe church. It was completed and rededicated on June 11, 1985. With its simple and forthright exterior, the mission church stands as a tribute to those whose efforts made this dream come true. The richly decorated interior follows the descriptions in the historic inventories of the 1830's when the church had been extensively decorated. The walls vary in thickness from 4 to 5 feet. The lumber used in the reconstruction has been given a hand-hewn appearance. Two of the original statues have been placed on the two side altars. "Ecce Homo" a figure of Christ clothed in a scarlet robe and crowned with thorns, stands on a balcony above one of the side altars. The other statue of St. Bonaventure was carved from wood, then painted. The original baptismal font of hammered copper on a turned wood base has been returned to the church as has the bell wheel used by the Ohlones during the sacred parts of the Mass.

Old timbers and rawhide thongs demonstrate the practicality of the padres who, having no iron nails for building, substituted the leather laces. The crystal chandeliers are copies of period pieces similar to ones listed in the old church inventories.

The reredos behind the main altar features a painting of Christ, a statue of St. Joseph (patron of this mission), and two carved figures: the dove represents the Holy Spirit and, at the top, God the Father with beautiful golden rays surrounding him. The altar and choir railings were copied from an original piece found in the museum during the reconstruction.

The mission cemetery is to the side of the church where many pioneers of Mission San Jose are buried. During the archeological dig, the marble grave marker of Robert Livermore, was located in the original tile floor of the church. It was carefully repaired and replaced in the reconstructed church. Many prominent Spaniards are buried in the floor of the mission church but only Livermore's grave is marked. Thousands of Ohlones are resting in the Ohlone cemetery located about a quarter of a mile down Washington Blvd. from the mission.

Three of the original mission bells were transferred from the destroyed adobe church to the wooden church of 1869, where they hung until the 1970's. A fourth bell had been given to a church in Oakland and recast, but was returned to the Mission during the reconstruction of the bell tower. Now all four bells are hung, ready to ring on special occasions.

Further reconstruction of the missing part of the padres' living quarters and a restoration of the surviving adobe wing are part of the overall plans.