U. S. Mission Trail / The Mission Trail Today - The Spanish Missions in California
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Explanation.

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Santa Ysabel Asistencia

Founded September 20, 1818
by Father Fernando Martin.
Santa Isabel

Personal Observations

We visited Santa Ysabel Asistencia on January 24, 2004. It had been raining off and on all day, usually as we drove between the missions. While not one of the major missions, Asistencia Ysabel was a rewarding stop as part of the total mission experience.
Photo-Art
Mission Art & Photo-Art
On the first day that we visited, no one was present until a group of tourists arrived just as we were leaving. We didn't see the caretaker. The gift shop unfortunately was closed, but the church and museum were open. A few items were for sale in the museum with visitors on the honor system to pay the donation box. On my second visit, a very large funeral was in progress for a member of the community who obviously was popular with many friends and family. On our return three days later, the site was almost deserted again. We have returned several times since and usually find it quiet.

I am still researching this mission and am a bit confused by some conflicting literature that I've read. The San Diego Historical Society web site states that Santa Ysabel was a ranch belonging to Mission San Luis Rey but I can find no other account of it related to San Luis Rey. The San Diego Historical Society web site also states that Santa Ysabel was an asistencia to Mission San Diego de Alcala. A plaque at the mission states that it was an extension mission to Mission San Diego.

History

Mission Santa Ysabel's (Pronounced "Isabel") beginnings are not clear. One account attributes Sunday, September 20, 1818 as the day when a site was blessed at Elcuanan. Mission Santa Ysabel is an "asistencia" (Extension or sub-missions) Mission to Mission San Diego, one of three mission asistencias San Diego County. Santa Ysabel is sometimes referred to as the "Church in the Desert."

Whereas Mission Pala, an asistensia to Mission San Louis Rey de Francia, needed only a resident priest to be a full functioning mission, Sant Ysabel asistencia was never more than an outlying outpost to Mission San Diego de Alcala, a chapel and a few residences to serve the needs in this agricultural region of Mission San Diego's lands.

Santa Ysabel Asistencia was to have been a link in a second chain of missions in Alta California, an inland chain, equal in importance to the established coastal chain. The Mexican Revolution ended this effort. After 1836, the Padres only made occasional visits. The building soon after fell into ruin. The ocasional masses were then celbrated in a grass ramada.

The Santa Ysabel Rancho passed into the possession of Jose Joaquin Ortega and Edward Stokes in 1844. The American traveler John Russell Bartlett wrote in 1852 that Santa Ysabel Mission was a roofless church and a few huts. Former mission lands were given to the Mesa Grande Reservation in 1883 and the Santa Ysabel Reservation in 1893. Sometime later, three acres were returned to the Catholic Church and services resumed. A new church was built near the original site, the corner stone being laid September 14, 1924.

The asistencia raised wheat, barley, corn, beans, and also had orchards and vineyards.

A major event in the more recent history of the Asistencia occurred on a summer night in 1926 when the beloved bells mysteriously disappeared, only the clappers remained on the ground. One of the two bells were reported to be the oldest bell in California. The older bell, inscribed: N.S. de Loreto, 1723, was named for Our Lady of Loreto and came from Loreto Mission, Baja California. The second bell was dedicated to San Pedro and dated 1767. The Indians traded six burro loads of wheat and barley. When the adobe chapel deteriorated and was no longer able to support the bells, they were hung from a wooden frame near the ramada. When Jose Maria Osuna discovered the bells missing, he took the clappers home for safe keeping. Eventually the clappers were returned to the mission in 1959 where they now rest in the museum. There is still no trace of the original bells. New bells were installed in 1993.

Today the new church is still open, Masses are held regularly. A small museum on the right side of the church is open during normal hours. The original church site is a short walk away with a few broken floor tiles marking its location.

Address and Directions

State Route 79
Santa Ysabel, CA 92070
760-765-0810

Mailing address:
PO Box 129
Santa Ysabel, CA 92070

Now known as Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church, Mission Santa Ysabel Asistencia is located in the Santa Ysabel Valley about 10 miles north of the tourist town of Julian along the east side of State Highway 79.

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Front
Front.
Church Interior
Church interior.
Santa Ysabel
Asistencia
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Grounds
Grounds
Church
Church
Original Site
Original Site
Exhibits
Exhibits
Cemetery
Cemetery

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This page last updated: Sunday, 25-Aug-2013 19:08:57 EDT
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