The Church of Saint Raphael, also known as Mission San Rafael Arcangel, is the fourth Catholic church to be constructed on the same San Rafael site. The photograph depicts a late-nineteenth-century Gothic Revival church that was constructed in 1869–1870, renovated and extended in 1889, and destroyed by fire in 1919. The current church is its third incarnation.
The first mission on this site was built around 1772 by Father Junípero Serra with funds provided by the king of Spain. After the California Revolution, when Mexico became a free country, the mission was taken over by the Mexican government and renamed "La Real Academia de la Santa Cruz de San Rafael". In 1823, after Mexico gained its independence from Spain, the academy was closed down because it lacked money to operate it. The building was then used as a storehouse until it was converted into a church in 1869–1870.
In 1989, after years of planning and construction, the present-day version of Mission San Rafael Arcángel was completed. This modern structure replaces part of the old church complex but includes elements from the previous versions such as the main entrance and tower. The new church has been praised for its innovative use of space and design aesthetics.
On November 11, 2019, at about 4:30 AM, firefighters were called to the church property due to smoke coming out of the roof.
Arcangel San Rafael Important Facts On December 14, 1817, San Rafael Archangel was established as a hospital asistencia (sub-mission), and on October 19, 1822, it was elevated to full mission status. In 1919, a duplicate of the ancient chapel was erected near the parish church of Saint Raphael. Several intriguing objects may be found in the gift shop/museum. One item is called "The Holy Sponge." It is said to have been used by Jesus during his trial before Pontius Pilate.
The original hospital was a simple building with no electricity or plumbing. The present hospital was constructed in 1969-70 to replace it. It is a multistory complex that includes 105 beds for inpatient care and 25 beds for outpatient services.
It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since March 5, 2009.
Today is the feast of San Rafael Church. The San Rafael mission was one of the few that was not designed as a quadrangle and was reputedly completed more quickly than many others. The old mission structure was demolished in the 1860s, and in 1919, a church (which still stands today) was erected on the site. This church was later transformed into a mosque when religious tolerance was permitted by the Mexican government after it became a federal republic. In 1973, the mosque was converted back into a church.
The current parish priest is Father Jose Luis Carrasco. He replaced Father Eduardo Garcia who died in August 2016 at the age of 54. Before coming to San Rafael, Father Garcia served for several years as pastor of San Juan Bautista Church in Los Angeles.
Mission San Rafael Arcángel was one of five missions built by Spanish missionary Fray Junipero Serra as part of his effort to convert the indigenous people of California to Christianity. The first mass was said in California at the San Gabriel Mission on February 8, 1772. The city of San Rafael is located within the former boundaries of the mission.
In 1834, following the secularization of Mexico's missions, San Rafael became property of the Catholic Church. In 1839, the town's church and school were destroyed by fire, and construction of the present church began soon thereafter. The new church was dedicated to Saint Rafael, whose birthday is February 24.