“Santa Cruz” is a spanish term for Holy Cross. This mission was founded September 25, 1791, although Father Fermín Lasuén, who selected the actual site, was not able to be present at the dedication. The event, of considerable importance to Northern Californians, was attended by the Franciscan Fathers from Santa Clara and the commandante of the San Francisco Presidio. His presence was a reflection of the vast improvement in relations between the friars and the military. Father Lasuen, who led the missionary system following Father Serra’s death, raised the cross on August 28, 1791 on where Mission Santa Cruz, was to be built. On September 25, 1791, the Mission Santa Cruz was formally founded as the 12th California Mission.

On The founding of mission Santa Cruz Father Lasuen wrote:

“I found the sight to be most excellent as had been reported to me. I found besides, a stream of water very near, copious and important. on August 28, 1791, The day of St. Augustine, I said, Mass and raised the cross on the spot where the mission is to be. Many gentiles came, old and young of both sexes and showed they would gladly enroll under the Sacred Standard.”

(source taken from athanasius.com).

The current Holy Cross Church was built on the site of the original mission church in 1889, and it remains an active parish of the Diocese of Monterey. Today’s Plaza Park occupies the same location as the original plaza, at the center of the former Mission complex. The complex at one time included as many as 32 buildings. The only surviving mission building, a dormitory for native acolytes, has been restored to its original appearance and functions as a museum of the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park.

UPDATE: 3 months after we had visited this mission, vandals attacked the church and destroyed important artifacts of this historic mission on May 2012.

Facade of the Mission

Interior of Mission Santa Cruz Chapel


Baptismal font

 This baptismal font brought to Mission Santa Cruz by Junipero Serra in 1791 was broken into several pieces during the vandal attack in May 2012.

Original sacred “utensils” used during mass at the time of the Padres

Chalice used by Padre Junipero Serra

The Santa Cruz Church located across the Mission Chapel

The 21 Missions were named after these Saints.