Mission Museum & Gift Shop

PREVIEW: Mission San Rafael Arcangel

Mission History

Mission San Rafael Arcangel was founded on December 14, 1817 by Father Vicente de Sarria. It was the 20th mission in the 21 mission chain in Alta California. It was named for Saint Raphael, the angel of healing, and was an asistencia or helper of Mission San Francisco de Asis (Mission Dolores). It was established as a hospital to treat the sick neophytes (Christianized Native Americans).  Asistencia San Rafael became an active farm and ranch on the northern edge of New Spain.  The simple buildings, orchards, farmlands and herds of livestock were the work of the Coast Miwok who were part of Mission San Rafael over the years.

The mission grew and was granted full mission status on October 19, 1822.  Mission San Rafael Arcangel was a mission for only 17 years, but converted 1,873 Indians, raised 2,210 cattle, 4,000 sheep and 454 horses.

After Mexico won its independence from Spain, they found that it could no longer afford to keep the missions running. In 1834, Mexico decided to end the mission system and sell all of the lands. The lands were divided into smaller Ranchos and sold to Mexican citizens who were helpful during the war for independence.

In 1840, there were 150 Indians still at the mission. By 1844, Mission San Rafael Arcangel was left abandoned. The mission was used by General John C. Fremont as his headquarters during the Bear Flag Revolt, the battle to make California a United States territory. 

In 1847, a priest was once again living at the mission.  A new parish church was built near the old chapel ruins in 1861.  In 1870, the rest of the ruins were removed to make room for the city of San Rafael. All that was left of the mission was a single pear tree from the old mission orchard.

In 1949, Msgr. Thomas Kennedy and a group of supporters, including the Hearst family, rebuilt a replica of the Mission Chapel, which sits next to the larger parish church of Saint Raphael.

The Mission Chapel is an integral part of Saint Raphael Parish.  It is open seven days a week and is used daily for liturgies, weddings, quinceañeras, prayer groups and much more. 

Mission Gift Shop Hours:

Wed. – Sat. 11:00 am – 4:00 pm & Sun. 10:00 am – 3:00 pm / Closed Mon. & Tues.

The museum contains artifacts, paintings and other objects for public viewing including three of the original bells from Mission San Rafael Arcangel. Tours of the mission and museum are available for groups of 10 or more with advance reservations. Call the Mission Museum & Gift Shop for more information about tours.

The Mission Gift Shop features items related to the California Missions, as well as a variety of religious items, such as crosses, rosaries, bibles, statues, jewelry, trinkets and much more.

If you are interested in volunteering at the Mission Museum and Gift Shop, contact Helen Bernardoni at (415)454-8141 ext. 204 or hbernardoni@saintraphael.com.

Mission Museum & Gift Shop: 415-456-3016