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San Rafael Museum

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For this Mission we'll start in the gift shop/museum just beyond the Mission church and work down to the Mission church outside and inside and then end up at the parish church.

The gift shop and museum are combined into one room at this Mission (there are hopes to expand the museum). While somewhat cramped, there are several interesting items found in the museum section of the room.

Museum Overview
Picture taken 11:16am 17 Feb 2012

On the Walls

Paintings and drawings represent the Mission, the angel Saint Rafael, and other religious scenes. There is no claim that any of the objects are from Mission San Rafael but all date from the mission period and represent art that might have been seen in missions in the 1700 through 1800 centuries.

Starting with the large painting of St. Rafael, here are some of them (click on each to see a larger photo and/or slide show)...

St. RafaelExpand
Picture taken 11:20am 17 Feb 2012

Mission San RafaelExpand
Picture taken 11:10am 29 Aug 2003

This painting by artist Alfonse Sondag dates from 1934 but is considered an accurate representation of the Mission as it looked in 1824. The artist conducted extensive research to include interviewing descendants of General Vallejo.

Mission San RafaelExpand
Picture taken 11:21am 17 Feb 2012

Mission San RafaelExpand
Picture taken 11:21am 17 Feb 2012

In this drawing the Mission is shown larger than it likely ever was. What's interesting here is the drawing of the pear tree as pears were one of the staples the Mission is famous for.

Mission San RafaelExpand
Picture taken 11:21am 17 Feb 2012

An undated image of the Mission that could represent the Mission as it looked around 1820 or so. Note that the housing area has a tule roof in this image. The tule was replaced by tile in the 1820 time period.

Mission San RafaelExpand
Picture taken 11:21am 17 Feb 2012

An artistic representation of the Mission.

Tobias' Farewell to the Angel Expand
Picture taken 11:19am 17 Feb 2012

"Tobias' Farewell to the Angel" The origin of this painting is not known but it is likely a 19th century replica of the 17th century Giovanni Biliverti original which currently hangs in The Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

The story behind the painting comes from the Catholic Bible Book of Tobit (or Book of Tobias in the Vulgate edition).

Tobit's son, Tobiah (or Tobias) is sent by his father to collect money deposited in Media. Raphael appears as Tobit's kinsman Azariah, and offers to aid Tobias. With the help of Raphael, Tobias travels to Media. Along the way, he is attacked by a fish, whose heart, liver and gall bladder are removed to make medicines. Upon arriving, Raphael tells Tobias of the beautiful Sarah, whom Tobias has the right to marry, because he is her cousin and closest relative. He instructs Tobias to burn the fish's liver and heart to drive away a demon when he attacks on the wedding night. The two are married, and the fumes of the burning organs drive the demon away to Upper Egypt, where Raphael follows and binds him. Sarah's father, meanwhile, has been digging a grave to secretly bury Tobias (who he assumes will be dead). Surprised to find his son-in-law alive, he orders a double-length wedding feast and has the grave secretly filled. Since he cannot leave because of the feast, Tobias sends Raphael to recover his father's money. After the feast, Tobias and Sarah return to Nineveh. There, Raphael tells the youth to use the fish's gall to cure his father's blindness. Raphael then reveals his true identity and returns to heaven, but not before Tobias begs him to take the treasures with him (which the angel does not).

St. RafaelExpand
Picture taken 11:18am 17 Feb 2012

This is an oil painting on tin of St. Rafael. It is from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and donated to the Mission by Lucretia Hanson Little.


St. Francis di PaolaExpand
Picture taken 11:18am 17 Feb 2012

"Saint Francis of Paola" One of several smaller depictions of Saints donated to the Mission museum.

Angel WingsExpand
Picture taken 11:17am 17 Feb 2012

A pair of angel wings donated to the Mission museum in 2010 by Suzanne Helms Yanok. They were purchased in Carmel, CA in 1974 and are most likely Spanish from the late 1700s. The wings are polychrome wood with gold gilding.


It's important to note that the bells that hang in front of the Mission are replicas created by Bronze Plus Foundry in Sebastopol. The Linden Root Dickenson Foundation underwrote the cost of the replicas. According to the brochures I have, the one from 2003 says the original bells were outside the Mission Church. The 2012 brochure says they are these, in the museum. So, apparently, some time between 2003 and 2012 the bells were duplicated and moved to their present location in the museum for protection.

The small whaling bell (last on the right below) is the first "tax free" item imported into Marin County. Instead of going through the government and/or church authorities to get the bell, the padres negotiated directly with some whalers and so obtained the bell without any associated taxes.

In the museum you see the originals (click on each to see a larger photo)...

Original BellExpand
Picture taken 1:15pm 18 Feb 2012
1833 BellExpand
Picture taken 1:15pm 18 Feb 2012
Whaling BellExpand
Picture taken 1:15pm 18 Feb 2012
This is the oldest of the Mission bells. It dates from 1820 and was made for the asistencia of San Rafael. It was hung by Padre Amorós. This bell was acquired in 1833 by either Father Estenga or Father Mercado. This bell dates from 1831 and is an iron-whaling bell. It was acquired in 1833 by either Father Estanega or Father Mercado and was cast at the Holbrook foundry in East Medway, Massachusetts.

Other Items

This collection of pictures dates from a combination of my 2003 and 2012 trips to the Mission. Over time museums change displays and move items out of and into storage so it's possible you may see something here that's not currently on display.

Tools for Grinding GrainExpand
Picture taken 10:17am 17 Feb 2012

Mortar and pestle used by the local Coast Miwok to grind acorns and seed into meal.

Virgin StatueExpand
Picture taken 10:47am 17 Feb 2012

Statue of Mary just outside the Mission museum.

Virgin de ZapopanExpand
Picture taken 11:17am 17 Feb 2012

Virgen de Zopopan by D. Cortez from Mexico aroung 1925. Donated to the Mission museum by Dr. William Galeno.

An early 19th century Spanish Colonial crucifix probably crafted in Mexico.

It's speculated that this might be an authentic artifact from the original Mission.

It's 25" tall with base and the corpus is 13" tall. It is made of carved wood, gesso, paint, glass eyes with a wood cross and silver nails.

Picture taken 11:18am 17 Feb 2012
Virgin and ChildExpand
Picture taken 11:19am 17 Feb 2012

Virgin Mary and Child

Donated to the Mission museum in 1976, this statue is carved out of one piece of solid wood. It was brought to the United States in 1928 from Italy. In the 1930s the statue was supposed to have been appraised by a curator of the Smithsonian who dated it as from the 1500s. No signature has been found and the statue was restored in 2009 by the South Coast Fine Arts Conservation Center in Santa Barbara. A picture of the statue from 2003, before restoration, is shown on the right.

Mary and ChildExpand
Picture taken 11:10am
29 Aug 2003

Altar DisplayExpand
Picture taken 11:10am 29 Aug 2003

Combination of several images of the altar display in the museum in 2003. The curve of the altar and image distortion is caused by the way the images were combined; it really was flat[Smile]. In 2012 the altar front was covered and there were fewer things on the altar itself. I picked this picture to show more of the items and the front of the altar which is colorful; a shame it's now covered.

Picture taken 11:10am 29 Aug 2003

A monstrance is used in the Catholic Church to place a consecrated host on display.

Roof TilesExpand
Picture taken 11:10am 29 Aug 2003

Original roof tile fragments.

Picture taken 11:10am 29 Aug 2003
Thomas Gordon BookExpand
Picture taken 11:10am 29 Aug 2003

Continue the tour now by walking around the outside of the Mission...Trail

Navigation for Mission San Rafael Arcángel:

Mission Home :: History :: Museum :: Church Exterior :: Church Interior :: Parish Church

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Copyright © 2003-2012 Tom Simondi, All Rights Reserved
Pray the rosary for peace!