Santa Ysabel was a sub-mission of Mission San Diego de Alcalá. It was established in 1818 as a means of serving people who had a hard time getting to San Diego. There is nothing left of the original asistencia however in 1924 the San Ysabel chapel was dedicated and sits near the site of the original adobe. [Note: I have not been to the site; photos on this page are courtesy of David Ott. They are used with his permission.]
The interior of the chapel is more like a modern church than a Mission church.
||There is a small historical museum on the site and a statue between the church and museum is dedicated to finding the original bells for the Asistencia (see history below).||
20 September 1818: Padre Fernando Martin blessed the spot for a capilla at Canada de Santa Ysabel. A temporary structure was then erected.
2 February 1819: Padre Vicente Sarria noted the presence of “a goodly number of baptized souls” and asked for permission to erect a permanent church.
1822: With permission granted, a church was erected and by this year a thriving community had been established.
1836: A report indicated that erosion has started to eat away at the foundations of several buildings, including the chapel.
7 May 1839: A report indicated thriving fields, two vineyards, an orchard, and animal stock. However, the erosion reported in 1836 continued.
1846: Erosion had so eaten away at the various buildings that the chapel was in ruins and all of the mud houses had effectively dissolved. A brush ramada served as a church whenever a visiting padre made their way back into the area. Two bells, bought by the Indians for six burro loads of barley hung in a frame as the only remains of the original chapel. The bells were among the oldest in California, dating from 1723 and 1767. (The picture here is an edited version of a picture from the museum. People were removed to highlight the bells.)
1899: A report from the period indicated that only the outlines of the church remained. Everything else had “sunk into indistinguishable heaps of earth.”
1924: The current building was dedicated as Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church.
1926: The original two bells from the chapel disappeared. A day later Jose Maria Osuna found the clappers (but kept them).
1959: The clappers to the bells were returned to the Chapel and are now in the museum. A statue of the “Angel of the Lost Bells” stands at the site now.
1963: The University of California discovered the site of the original buildings, then only “faintly visible under the pasture grass.”
32.5 miles East of I15 via S4, California 67, and California 78 (or East on 78 from Escondido or North on 79 from I8 or, if coming from the Pala Asistencia, just stay on 76). The chapel is approximately 5.5 miles South of the 76/79 intersection and 1.4 miles North of the town of Santa Ysabel (79/78 intersection). The chapel is on the East side of the road, set back about 250 to 300 feet. There are three structures and a cemetery. There’s also a fourth (trailer like) building to the South of these three that houses the gift shop.
The California landmark sign is on the front of the chapel by the door.
Santa Ysabel Asistencia Site
Father Fernando Martin celebrated the first Mass on Sept. 20, 1818 at a site nearby, an outpost of Mission San Diego. By 1822 Santa Ysabel had a chapel, cemetery, granary, many houses, and 450 neophytes. After secularization in the 1830’s, priestly visits were rare. Tradition asserts that services have been held here since 1818, under ramadas erected against one wall after the roof caved in. The present chapel was built in 1924.
California Registered Historical Landmark No. 369
Originally registered April 3, 1940. Plaque placed by the State Department of Parks and Recreation in cooperation with the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, Santa Ysabel Tribal Council, and Squibob Chapter, E Clampus Vitus, September 26, 1987.
- The site is open in the Winter from 8am to 4pm and in the Summer (Memorial Day to Labor Day) 8am to 5:30pm.