If you want to see the Mission as it might have looked at its peak, there is a model in a display in the walkway before entering the museum proper. Note the “standard” quadrangle construction with side buildings. What was the bulk of the quadrangle is now taken up by the basilica.
Continue to the end of the walk between the churches where you will find the museum entrance. On the way you will see the pictures highlighted on the history page here and before you walk through the door be certain to look to the right at the large tile mural by artist Guillermo Granizo. The near-by plaque describes the mural…
1923-1996This ceramic mural is the work of GUILLERMO GRANIZO, a native San Francisco artist. Shortly after Guillermo’s birth in 1923 the Grainizo family moved to Nicaragua for a period of eleven years. The family then returned to San Francisco. Extensive travel and research in Mexico and Central America in 1958 has provided flavor of many of his works.This mural depicts the arrival of the SAN CARLOS in San Francisco Bay while presenting at the same time the arrival of the military representative of Spain, Juan Bautista de Anza, and Father Junípero Serra to symbolize the bringing of the Good News of the Christian Gospel to the natives of California. Father Serra holds in his hand a plan for the facade of Mission Dolores.The sails of the ship tell the story of the coming of civilization to the area. REY signifies the Spanish sponsorship of the colonization; DIOS the spiritual element brought by the Franciscan Fathers; PUEBLO the city of San Francisco that was to grow out of this expedition; and MUERTE to indicated [sic] the gradual disappearance of the Native people of this area. The artist then asks himself ¿QUIEN SABE? What would have happened if civilization had not come; if the people who had inhabited this land had been left to themselves? He leaves the answer to the imagination of the viewer.The green area surrounded by brown in the lower left hand area of the mural represents the island of Alcatraz, and the pelicans symbolize the same island in San Francisco Bay.We are grateful to the artist for placing this mural on extended loan to Mission Dolores since 1984.
The museum itself is somewhat small; however, it is well organized and there are a number of interesting exhibits. In particular, the Indian section has been expanded since 2003. A collection of exhibits is shown here…
Vestments and Small Items
Vestments. Vestments have been, from the early days of the church, a part of the service of the Mass. They come in different colors to represent various feast days, events, or religious parts of the year. Most every mission museum has a collection of vestments on display.
Candlesticks. Like vestments, candles are part of the Mass. The two pictures here show a 19th century brass candlestick and, at the far right, a portion of an 18th century silver candlestick.
Reliquaries. These are highly decorated containers that were used to hold relics of the saints. The one of the left is empty and the one on the right is said to contain relics from St. Rose.
A Monstrance (left), small 19th century bronze Hand Bell (right), and a holder for the Mass missal (below) close out the display here. There are, of course, many other items on display in the museum.
Native Peoples Displays
Carved and Woven Things. A paddle used to stir food marks a display of carved things that include (in the lower right corner of the picture) some fire sticks used to start fires by using a bow to spin them. On the right are various woven things, such as baskets and ropes and even a woven duck used in a way similar to carved ducks today.
Useful Things. The mortar pictured on the far left was used to grind pigments. Different colors came from different minerals. On the near left are some bone tools. Expand the picture and see some of the other uses for bone.
More Useful Things. Many things in nature were of use to the people. On the near right is a plant call Soap Root. As its name implies, when wet the plant provides a nice lather. Expand the picture and see what else it can be used for. On the far right are decoreations carved out of Abalone shells. In some cases the shells were also used as money in exchanges.
Village Diorama. Along one wall you will find a diorama depicting life as it was in a Churchui Village in 1775. Seen below is a small part of that diorama.
Statues. Statues in various forms decorated churches and missions as a reminder of sainted people. The St. Francis figure was designed by sculptor Beniamino Bufano (1898-1970). I have no notes on the figure to the right but it might be Our Lady of Sorrows as it is similar to a figure at the Soledad Mission.
Paintings. Two paintings in particular depict the two people most associated with the Mission. On the far left is Saint Serra and just left is Padre Palou.
Saint Serra Painting. Of particular interest is this portrait that portrays a young Serra at the turning point of his life at 35 years of age and embarking on the start of his missionary career. The painting is the official painting made for the Beatification of Junípero Serra and was executed by Lorenzo Ghiglieri in 1988. In the background is a montage of California and at Serra’s feet is a rose of Castille, which moved Serra when he first entered California. A replica of this painting hung over the portico of Saint Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, on Sunday, September 25, 1988 when His Holiness, Pope John Paul II declared Serra as a Blessed of the Roman Catholic Church, and that his Feast Day is to be celebrated on July 1st of each year.
One of the best descriptions of the politics of the treatment of the Indians by the missionaries was written on a placard in the Mission museum. Keep in mind that a direct descendent of the local Indians is the current manager of the museum and so had to approve the text. It is reproduced below in full (I chose to retype it instead of just showing a picture of it to make it easier to read)…
|Junípero Serra and his missionaries did not come to California to study Indian culture; they came to change it. In conjunction with the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Franciscans sought to Christianize and Hispanicize the Indians. Segregation of Christian Indians from their non-Christian brethren in the “wild” ensured effective religious instruction, moral training, avoidance of the occasion of sin, and education in the arts of Western civilization. In Palou’s words:
Eighteenth-century Spanish Franciscan methods of aboriginal evangelization and acculturation must not be judged by twentieth-century standards. European scholars had no scientific means of measuring intelligence, hence the Indians were thought of as “adult children.” Under Spanish law they were legally classified as personas miserables (unfortunate persons) along with the poor, blind, leprous, etc. The missionaries acted as legal guardians in loco parentis (in the place of a parent), and used corporal punishment as a means of discipline. Serra offered the following defense:
There is absolutely no documentary evidence to indicate that Serra ever mistreated anyone, either personally or indirectly. On the contrary, he was harshest on himself, seeking to transcend his perceived faults through privation and self-mortification. The California missions and missionaries have always had their detractors, and probably always will. Fueled by emotion rather than persuaded by fact, the allegations tend to generalize and blame Serra for every excess and abuse that occurred during the entire 1769-1834 mission period. The mission system’s greatest “sin” was not individual shortcoming, but inculpable eighteenth-century ignorance. Unable to solve complex medical, social, and environmental problems, the Indian population was drastically reduced, especially through disease. However, the worst was yet to come. When the American flood of “Manifest Destiny” swept into California seeking hides, pelts, gold, and statehood, the decline was catastrophic. California’s estimated pre-1769 Indian population of 300,000 dropped to approximately 150,000 by the end of the mission period in 1834, but between 1848-1900 it fell to an alarming low of 20,000 (Cook, The Population of the California Indians, p. 199). Whether Spanish, English, Russian, or even if no settlers had preceded the Americans, the result would have been the same. At least the Spanish sought to incorporate the Indians into their economic and social structure (including through miscegenation), rather than rigidly excluding and exterminating them.
Exit the museum into the courtyard behind the museum and there you will find a fountain and the Hannon statue of Saint Serra. Don’t forget to rub the toe for luck!