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Mission San Rafael

The city of San Rafael was named after the Archangel Raphael whom is the angel of good health and travelers. On December 14th, 1817, four friars: Father Narciso Duran, Father Abella, Father Gil y Taboada and Father Junipero Sero founded Mission San Rafael in what is present-day downtown San Rafael. The Mission San Rafael did not have the same functions as the other missions in the area. It founded with the purpose of being a hospital to treat the ill Indians that the Spanish were converting to Catholicism. Many Indians had a difficult time recovering from their illnesses in San Francisco’s cold and humid climate. They were transferred to Mission San Rafael Archangel due to its warmer climate that aided in the healing process. This is Alta California’s first sanitarium.

After the success Mission San Rafael Archangel had within its first few years of operation, it had gained its full mission status on December 19th, 1822. In its first year, the mission had converted over three-hundred people and by 1822, it had converted over one thousand people. Shortly after in 1834, Mexico declared independence from Spain, leaving the missions in Mexican control. Mexican General Vallejo seized many of the mission’s belongings such as cattle, supplies and crops for his own personal use, leaving the mission emaciated and in complete ruins in 1844. Two years later, John C. Fremont utilized the abandoned mission as his designated headquarters during the Mexican-American War.

The mission that stands today is a replica of what used to stand before. Felix Adrian Reynaud, a postcard maker, drew a picture of what he believed the Mission San Rafael Archangel had looked like based off of the sketches General Mariano Vallejo had given him. The postcard that Reynaud created inspired architects to build a replica in downtown San Rafael in 1949. Much of downtown San Rafael was built using a crane service a lot like ours.

Learn more about the history of San Rafael by reading our article about the San Rafael Fire Department.