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Missions and Ruins
in Baja California

All that remains of Mision San Fernando Rey de Espana de Velicata,
the only mission founded by Franciscans in Baja California
In the winter break of 1990 (I think!) I traveled with a college class from Ventura County to the tip of the Baja California peninsula by mini-van. Although I was with a biology class, the teacher--Dr. Muthena Naseri--made sure we saw plenty of historical and cultural sites along the way, including some missions.

In addition, I have traveled on my own or with friends to the northern reaches of Baja, and studied the area for years (I have a strangely extensive collection of books on the Baja missions).

My photos are few and ill-marked, but I can and will give you quite a bit of "book learnin'" on these sites. Watch for more!

The Background: In 1683, Jesuit Padre Eusebio Kino founded Misión San Bruno on the east coast of the Baja California peninsula (across from the Mexican mainland--more or less here); it failed just under two years later. Kino continued to agitate for a return effort, and finally, in 1697, the Jesuits founded the first permanent mission, at Loreto, in the modern state of Baja California Sur. Unfortunately, Kino was unable to participate, as he was called to join what became his greatest success, and the one for which he is known today: the Missions of the Pimeria Alta, in what is now northern Sonora (Mexico) and southern Arizona.

The Jesuits subsequently developed 16 more missions in Baja before they were expelled from all Spanish realms (part of a larger suppression involving other Catholic kingdoms). They were booted from New Spain (Mexico) in June of 1767; a month later, Franciscan Padre Junipero Serra was appointed president of the Baja missions, but didn't stay long before setting out to found the chain of missions in what is now California, USA.

Along the way, however, he founded one mission in Baja, Misión San Fernando Rey de España de Velicatá--the first of his missions, the fulfillment of a life-long ambition--when he was 56 years old.

In 1772, the missions of Baja California were turned over to the Dominicans, who added nine more missions to the chain in Baja--as it happens, its northernmost members. Serra's single Baja Franciscan mission at Velicatá neatly divides the Dominican foundations to the north from the Jesuit missions to the south.

The List: Let me first make a caveat: consult any two experts, and you're likely to come up with different lists of the "twenty-seven missions of Baja California" (although 27 seems to be the agreed-upon number).

The confusion results partly from relocations, renamings, mergers, and abandonments. Further complicating matters are the visitas (sub-missions, called in Upper California asistencias) that were raised to or reduced from full mission status.

The list here follows largely that of Wikipedia, though I have made minor adjustments, usually based on books and maps in my personal library, particularly on the work of the mission scholar Monsignor Francis J. Weber. I have also consulted the excellent, modern research done by David Kier.

With these reservations in mind, here are the missions of Baja California, Mexico, listed from south to north. In a few cases, where more than one site has remains, I have added locations, largely based on Kier. What you will find at these sites ranges from full-sized active churches to stone remains to adobe walls to moldering mud to--nothing.

Jesuit Foundations (17)
  1. Misión Estero de las Palmas de San José del Cabo Añuití (map / Wiki); (1730)
  2. Misión Santiago de Los Coras (map / Wiki); (1721)
  3. Misión Santa Rosa de las Palmas (map; original site / Wiki); (1733)
  4. Misión de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de La Paz Airapí (map / Wiki); (1720)
  5. Misión San Luis Gonzaga Chiriyaqui (map / Wiki); (1740)
  6. Misión Nuestra Señora de los Dolores del Sur Chillá (map; original site? / Wiki); (1721)
  7. Misión San Francisco Javier de Viggé-Biaundó (map / Wiki); (1699)
  8. Misión San Juan Bautista Malibat (Misión Liguí) (map / Wiki); (1705)
  9. Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó (map / Wiki); (1697)
  10. Misión San Jose de Comondú (map; original site / Wiki); (1708)
  11. Misión La Purísima Concepción de Cadegomó (map; original site / Wiki); (1720)
  12. Misión Santa Rosalía de Mulegé (map / Wiki); (1705)
  13. Misión Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Huasinapi (map / Wiki); (1720)
  14. Misión San Ignacio Kadakaamán (map / Wiki); (1728)
  15. Misión Santa Gertrudis (map / Wiki); (1752)
  16. Misión San Francisco Borja (map / Wiki); (1762)
  17. Misión Santa María de los Ángeles (map / Wiki); (1767)

Franciscan Foundation (1)
  1. Misión San Fernando Rey de España de Velicatá (map / Wiki); (1769)

Dominican Foundations (9)
  1. Misión Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario de Viñadaco (map; original site / Wiki); (1774)
  2. Misión San Pedro Mártir de Verona (map / Wiki); (1794)
  3. Misión Santo Domingo de la Frontera (map / Wiki); (1775)
  4. Misión San Vicente Ferrer (map / Wiki); (1780)
  5. Misión Santa Catarina Virgen y Mártir (map / Wiki); (1797)
  6. Misión Santo Tomás de Aquino (map; original site / Wiki)*; (1791)
  7. Misión de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe del Norte (map / Wiki); (1834)
  8. Misión San Miguel Arcángel de la Frontera (map / Wiki); (1787)
  9. Misión San Miguel la Nueva (Misión El Descanso) (map / Wiki); (1817)
*(Santo Tomás de Aquino had three sites; I have given the first and the last, as the second is now in a farmer's field with little left to see.)


In addition to the 27 missions, several visitas (also called asistencias, or sub-missions) have been noted in my sources (especially Kier's list at the bottom of this page). Only a few have Wiki articles (and those are brief); for the others, start with Kier.

  1. San Jacinto (map) (Visita of Mission Todos Santos)
  2. San Blas (map) (Visita of Mission La Paz)
  3. Angel de la Guarda (El Zalato) (map) (Visita of Mission La Paz)
  4. El Novillo (map) (Visita of Mission La Paz)
  5. La Presentacion (map) (Visita of Mission San Javier)
  6. San Juan Bautista Londo (map / Wiki) (Visita of Mission Loreto) 
  7. San Jose de Magdalena (map / Wiki) (Visita of Mission Mulege)
  8. San Pablo (map) (Visita of Mission Santa Gertrudis)
  9. Santa Ana (map) (Visita of Mission San Borja)
  10. Visita de Calamajué (map / Wiki) (Visita of Mission San Francisco Borja?)
  11. San Juan de Dios (map) (Visita of Mission San Fernando)
  12. San Isidoro (map) (Visita of Mission San Pedro Martir)
  13. San Telmo (map) (Visita of Mission Santo Domingo) 

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Last updated May 14, 2019

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