San Gabriel Arcángel


Founded: September 8, 1771

Founder: Father Pedro Cambon and Father Angel Somera

Status: Active Roman Catholic Church

Indian tribes native to surrounding area: Tongva, Serrano, Cahuilla

Nickname: The Pride of the Missions

Location: 428 South Mission Drive, San Gabriel, CA 91776

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mission San Gabriel Arcangel

San Gabriel was one of the busiest of the missions, located at the junction of three major trails.  The mission settlement became the seed of modern-day Los Angeles.

The first few years, however, were difficult.  One of the mission soldiers raped the wife of a local Indian Chief.  The Chief led an attack against the mission, and was shot and killed.  The remaining attackers fled but relations between the mission and the surrounding Indians were hostile for many years.

The unusual bell wall, or campanario, is a highlight of the mission.
The unusual bell wall, or campanario, is a highlight of the mission.

Key Events

1771 – Mission founded.

1819 – San Bernardino Asistencia founded as a sub-mission.

1834 – Mission secularized.

1859 – Mission returned to the Catholic church.

The Mission Fire of 2020

On July 10, 2020, a fire broke out in the choir loft of the mission church. The fire destroyed the roof of the church and heavily damaged the interior, including the altar and pulpit. Because renovations were underway at the time, many of the mission’s artifacts had been moved to storage, and therefore escaped damage.

The fire was ultimately determined to be caused by arson, and an arrest was made.

Following a multi-million dollar fundraising effort and extensive restoration, the missions church reopened in July, 2023.

Visiting the Mission

The church at San Gabriel Arcángel is one of the most interesting in the mission system.  The beautiful façade at the end of the building is actually not an entrance; the doorway to the church is on the long “side” wall.

There is also a campanario, or bell wall, featuring six bells, and a museum of mission artifacts. The oldest bells were cast in Mexico City in 1795.

The Stations of the Cross are thought to have been painted by Indian neophytes.  They were exhibited in 1893 at the  World’s Columbia Exhibition in Chicago.

Nearby Attractions

While you are in the area, we recommend a visit to Los Angeles Chinatown, an important cultural and historic site.