The Santa Cruz Mission, or Misión la Exaltacion de la Santa Cruz, was effectively established by the building of the first adobe building in 1792, and a church in 1794, followed by surrounding buildings in 1795. This makes it only the 12th California Mission to be built. The Pueblo Branciforte was established nearby in July of 1797, and incorporated into the mission in 1841. The bell tower collapsed in 1840 and was futher damaged by an earthquake in 1857. One of the mission buildings, the Neart-Rodriguez Adobe, was built in 1791, making it the oldest surviving mission structure. It has since been restored to its original appearance after collapsing in 1857. The name Santa Cruz was given by Spanish explorers led by Gaspar de Portola, in 1769.

Fray Fermín Francisco de Lasuén, also known as Father Lausen, who headed the missionary system following Father Junipero Serra's death in 1784, raised the cross on the future site of the Santa Cruz (Or "Holy Cross", the name held by the grade school which is now next door) mission on August 28, 1791. On September 25, 1791, the Mission Santa Cruz was formally founded as the 12th California Mission.

The "Indians", or in this case Native Americans, who built the mission and subsequently resided in it were from the Yokut and Ohlone Tribes. By 1796 there were around 500 Native Americans living at the mission. little is known today, however, of what long-term effects the mission had on the (arguably) indigenous population. However, at one time Father Quintana was convinced to visit a sick Indian and was attacked and killed. The Indians were punished for this action, but in their defense said that the Padre had treated them badly, so clearly there was a limited amount of harmony between the tribes and the church.

The Pueblo Branciforte (named for the Viceroy of that time) wound up being peopled largely by convicted criminals. Branciforte soon became a center for smuggling and drinking, somewhat contrary to religious proscription. The Ohlone Indians from the mission supposedly visited this town to experience the vices of the colonists. Naturally, some of the people from Branciforte robbed the mission while the padres were at a celebration at nearby Mission Santa Clara.

Around the 35 adobe structures on Mission Hill, overlooking the floodplains upon which rest downtown santa cruz, grew the early pueblo (town) of Santa Cruz. The buildings passed into commercial use. A copy of the original church was built in the 1930s by a private family, but the money petered out and it wound up being built to half the original size. The site is now the home of the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, on Mission Street. This also puts it, more or less, on California State Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway. If you're heading south on 1, just don't jag to the left to follow the highway as you're coming off of Mission Street, and it's there on your left behind some palm trees. Welcome to Santa Cruz.


Website: California Missions Foundation, Mission Santa Cruz (

Website: Monterey County Historical Society, Mission Santa Cruz (

Website: The California Missions On-Line Project, Mission Santa Cruz (

Website: California State Parks, Santa Cruz Mission (