Pillar of the communitySan Francisco, CA

Mission San Francisco de Asís sketch by Chandler O'Leary

This is the nineteenth installment of my Mission Mondays series, exploring all 21 Spanish Missions along the California coast. You can read more about this series, and see a sketch map of all the missions, at this post.

Mission San Francisco de Asís (or Mission Dolores, if you prefer the nickname) is the centerpiece and namesake of San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood. Yet the mission itself, tucked away on a residential block, behind towering palms and ficus trees, seems to get lost amid all the trendy restaurants and busy hipsters flooding the rest of the neighborhood. It’s even overshadowed by the tall spires of the basilica next door—many people don’t even know that the squat adobe building is the actual mission, not the towering cathedral.

Detail of California Missions map sketch by Chandler O'Leary

As an aside, I did this one out of order… as I happened to be in the Bay Area at the beginning of my trip, rather than the end, I did the last three missions first, in reverse order.

Mission San Francisco de Asís sketch by Chandler O'Leary

This is one mission I knew well—at least from the outside. Every time I’m in San Francisco, I end up with errands to run, or people to see, or at least a route that takes me through this neighborhood. So Mission Dolores has gone from familiar landmark to old friend. The interior was a mystery to me, though, and it took all of three seconds to know I’d found a hidden gem. I stepped one foot inside—

Mission San Francisco de Asís sketch by Chandler O'Leary

—and that ceiling just took my breath away.

Mission San Francisco de Asís sketch by Chandler O'Leary

The mission chapel is no longer a consecrated church, but it still deserves plenty of reverence. After all, Mission Dolores is the oldest intact building in San Francisco—which, considering the devastation of the 1906 earthquake (not to mention all those other destroyed missions), is really saying something.

Mission San Francisco de Asís sketch by Chandler O'Leary

So if you find yourself in San Francisco, on your way to Tartine (come on, I know I’m not the only one), stop here first. I promise it’ll be worth the detour—and I can’t think of a better place to pay homage to the City by the Bay.

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