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Sonoma Mission Chapel

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The chapel you see today was built by General Mariano Vallejo between 1840 and 1841. It replaced the original church which was at the other side (east side) of the Mission (three houses sit there today).

Below you should see a rotating panorama of the complete inside of the Mission Church. You should be able to click on the panorama to stop the rotation at any point and then drag the mouse left, right, up, or down to see any specific area. If you have a mouse wheel, it should be able to be used to zoom in and out. If one or more of these behaviors does not work click on the full screen icon (top right corner) and try the behavior again. If you are at full screen, press the ESCape key to have the panorama return to this page.

Panorama pictures taken 2/19/2012 and created with PTGui panorama photo software

Now that you've seen the whole inside, let's take a look at the altar reredo, ambo (pulpit), artwork, and Stations of the Cross in more detail. Click on any picture to see an expanded view and/or a slideshow...


The current chapel is the third church built at the Mission site. It sits on the site of the first church which was replaced in 1827 with a second church built at the other end of the current structure on what is now private land. That church was rendered largely unusable in 1833. The present chapel was built in 1840-41 by General Vallejo to replace the destroyed church and serve the Sonoma pueblo.

You enter from the back and make your way forward.

Look up as you approach the sanctuary. To save some money only the ceiling above the sanctuary has been painted as it might have been in the mission era; the rest, above the nave, has been left plain.

Church Long ViewExpand
Picture taken 11:27am 19 Feb 2012
Picture taken 11:23am 19 Feb 2012

The altar is in Spanish style. The picture over the altar depicts St. Francis Solano, missionary to the Peruvian Indians. The statues are simple; of the type you might find carved by local craftsmen. While the documentation at the Mission is silent on the statues, they are likely representations of Mary and Joseph as it typical of many other missions. The sanctuary light that would be lit if consecrated hosts were in the tabernacle is on the left. The pictures below show details of the altar area in approximately the same orientation as you see them in the overviews above. Click on any of them for a more detailed view and/or slideshow...

  St. Francis SolanoExpand
Picture taken 10:40am 19 Feb 2012
Sanctuary LightExpand
Picture taken
11:23am 19 Feb 2012
Picture taken 10:40am 19 Feb 2012
Left StatueExpand
Picture taken
11:23am 19 Feb 2012
Picture taken 11:23am 19 Feb 2012
Right StatueExpand
Picture taken
11:23am 19 Feb 2012


The ambo, like most Mission ambos, sits high and to the side. The height allows the padre's voice to carry throughout the church.

Note that the wall decorations are similar to those in other mission churches. When a specific decoration could not be constructed, it was often simply painted onto the wall.

Picture taken 11:24am 19 Feb 2012


In addition to the Stations of the Cross there are several paintings and a holy water font. Also, don't forget to look up and down.

Four paintings hang on the chapel walls amidst the Stations of the Cross...

Jesus Nailed to the CrossExpand
Picture taken 11:18am 19 Feb 2012
Picture taken 11:18am 19 Feb 2012
Picture taken 11:19am 19 Feb 2012
Sacred HeartExpand
Picture taken 11:19am 19 Feb 2012

There are no plaques, information sheets, or other materials that I found at the Mission that describe each of these paintings but it was common in the mission era for artists in Spain and/or Mexico to copy famous works of art so that the copies could be hung at missions and other locations. If you have information about any of the art please feel free to use the feedback form to tell me and I'll add that to the site.

Be certain to look both up and down. Above you is the painted ceiling over the sanctuary and light fixtures that, while electric now, might have looked like those with candles looked in the Mission.

Picture taken 11:24am 19 Feb 2012



Down is the floor. Note the lack of pews in the Church. This is authentic as during Mass at the Mission men were on one side and women on the other with no comfortable seats or kneelers.

Picture taken 11:24am 19 Feb 2012

Church ExitExpand
Picture taken 11:26am 19 Feb 2012
At the back door look closely at the holy water holder. A small cherub angel will be looking back at you. Holy Water HolderExpand
Picture taken 11:25am 19 Feb 2012

Stations of the Cross

The Stations of the Cross in this church are paintings. Two were out being restored so this collection is not complete. Gives me an excuse to go back some day.[Smile] The gallery below shows all Stations present when I visited in February 2012. Click on a thumbnail to show the full image and then navigate between them in the lightbox or just click on the play button and watch the slide show.

1: Jesus is Condemned to Die
2: Jesus Carries the Cross
3: Jesus Falls the First Time
4: He Meets His Blessed Mother
5: Simon Helps Bear the Cross
6: Christ's Face Wiped by Veronica
7: Jesus Falls a Second Time
7: Jesus Falls a Second Time
9: Jesus Falls the Third Time
10: Jesus Stripped of His Garments
11: Jesus is Crucified
12: Jesus Dies on the Cross
13: Jesus Taken Down From Cross
14: Jesus' Body Laid in Tomb

Before you exit, look to the right for a holy water fount thought to be original to the Mission. Below the fount is a plaque that commemerates Maria Ignacia Lopez de Carrillo, the mother-in-law of General Vallejo and the only person buried in the Church. She lived in San Diego but after her husband died she moved to Sonoma with her unmarried children. In 1837 she received a land grant in Santa Rosa and built the first permanent home there. She asked the priest if she could be buried in the Church on her death and he agreed.

Fount and PlaqueExpand
Picture taken 11:25am 19 Feb 2012
Maria Carrillo PlaqueExpand
Picture taken 11:25am 19 Feb 2012

The plaque reads:

In memory of
Maria Ygnacia
Lopez Carrillo

Buried here Feb 1849
Mother of
Francisca Benicia Carrillo
who was the wife of
General M G Vallejo

Now, move back through the dining room and bell room and out into the courtyard...Trail


Navigation for Mission San Francisco Solano:

Mission Home :: History :: Museum :: Chapel :: Courtyard :: Exterior :: Jorgensen Watercolors :: Sonoma Plaza :: Sonoma Barracks :: Lachryma Montis

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