Naming of the Mission
The name San Diego de Alcala, or Saint Didacus of Alcala, was given to the locality by Captain Sebastian Viscaino upon his arrival from New Spain in November, 1602, in the custom of Spanish explorers, who named the bay and the region in honor of the Saint whose feast day was near.
Didacus, or Diego, was born in 1400, a native of the town of San Nicholas del Puerto, in the diocese of Seville in the Spanish Province of Andalusia. Born to poor but religious parents, Didacus joined a hermit priest who for several years tutored him in devotional exercises. He returned home for a short period of time and soon afterward became a member of the Franciscan Order of Airizafa and there took the habit of a lay brother. The young Franciscan Brother taught Christianity and converted the natives to the Faith in the Canary Islands.
In 1450, Didacus journeyed to Rome with Padre Alonso de Castro to attend the canonization of St. Bernardine of Siena and to join in a celebration proclaimed by Pope Nicholas V. Remaining in Rome for some months, Didacus took charge of the infirmary of the Friary of Ara Caeli, where he was engaged in nursing many sick friars, some of whom were said to have miraculously recovered through his care. He returned to Spain and lived for thirteen years at Alcala in Castile. At Alcala, Didacus was taken ill and died on November 12, 1463. King Phillip II of Spain solicited the Saint's canonization which was decreed in 1588 for the many miracles attributed to him.
Alcala, Spain, has been the seat of a university and a center of learning for centuries. For this reason, the University of San Diego, the Catholic University of the West, is located in an area known as Alcala Park.
Photographs of the Mission
The Mission Brand
The Spanish introduced livestock to Alta California. As the herd of cattle increased, it became necessary to forge brands specific to each mission. The brand that is pictured is the brand for Mission San Diego de Alcala. In 1797 our cattle numbered 10,000.
Early Mission Life
Building each mission was a long and arduous task. Not only did the work have to be accomplished but also the neophytes (newly baptized) had to be schooled in trades and learn the Spanish language and culture. Everyday was a learning experience for the padres (who were learning many things from the Indians) and for the Indians (who were learning new and different things from the padres). It was only mutual respect and cooperation that would ensure that these great institutions would thrive and build a cornerstone for this great state of California.
Everyday as the bells rang out for attention, the people would scatter to their particular task. The men were taught how to plow, plant, cultivate and reap. They were also taught how to make adobe bricks and how to build structures. They were taught how to make candles from tallow (animal fat) and how to make soap. Animal husbandry or taking care of the livestock was also to be learned.
The women would take care of the children, learn to work with wool and take care of the clothing, prepare food, continue to make wonderful tightly woven baskets as they had learned to do before the Spanish arrived.
The children would spend their days with their lessons and assisting their parents and the padres with adobe making and tending to the animals and crops. The children continued with their native games and customs and stories handed down by their elders.
Life on the mission compound afforded many new and different learning experiences not unlike a child's life today.
Mission San Diego is sometimes referred to as the Plymouth Rock of the West Coast.
The first seeds of agriculture were planted at Mission San Diego, which laid the foundations for the great agricultural state that California is today.
It was possible for historians to find out what crops were grown at each mission by studying the components of the adobe bricks.
When homes were being built in Old Town, it was common practice to take materials from the abandoned mission to be used in constructing the homes.
Before the Alta California expeditions, Fr. Junipero Serra insisted the padres be assigned in pairs because their order traditionally lived in communities, and because two padres could help each other when sick and in spiritual administration.
The OFM after the name of a padre refers to the designation of Order of Friars Minor - followers of Saint Francis of Assisi.
During mission days the following Franciscan Friars served as pastors of Mission San Diego:
Rev.Junipero Serra, OFM 1769 - 1770 Rev.Fernando Parron, OFM 1770-1771
Rev.Luis Jayme, OFM 1774-1775
Rev.Fermin Lasuen, OFM 1775-1785
Rev.Juan Mariner, OFM 1785-1800
Rev.Joseph Barona, OFM 1800-1811
Rev.Fernando Martin, OFM 1811-1838
Rev.Vicente Pasqual Oliva, OFM 1838-1846