Wave Wire Services
SAN GABRIEL — The Mission San Gabriel Arcángel campus has reopened to the public for the first time in three years following the pandemic and an arson fire in July 2020.
The July 1 reopening coincided with the Feast Day of the mission’s founder, Father Junípero Serra.
“We look forward to opening wide the doors of Mission San Gabriel once again,” said the Rev. Parker Sandoval, vice chancellor for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. “As the place where the Gospel of Jesus Christ was first proclaimed in this land, the mission is the spiritual home of all Catholics in Los Angeles.”
The Mission Church includes the restored altarpiece that dates back to the 1790s when it arrived from Mexico City and was damaged in the earthquake of 1812 and arson of 2020. The Mission Museum features a newly curated exhibit, “Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, 1771-1900: Natives, Missionaries, and the Birth of Catholicism in Los Angeles.”
The museum’s galleries include baptismal records, textiles, baskets, paintings and audio recordings along with the Wall of Names, a memorial in honor of the Native American community, space dedicated to the contemporary Gabrieleño community; and recordings of 18th century music composed for the California missions and performed by USC Thornton Baroque Sinfonia and readings from the letters of Father Junípero Serra.
The exhibit features a complete name list of 7,054 Native Americans who were baptized at the mission between 1771 and 1848.
The museum includes a 1775 confessional booth; a 1770s silk beaded, rose-colored chasuble woven in China and designed in Mexico by liturgical authorities — likely worn by Father Junípero Serra during one of his visits to the mission; religious paintings created by leading artists of 17th and 18th century Mexico, and a set of Stations of the Cross from the 19th century.
The July 11, 2020, fire destroyed the mission’s roof and substantially damaged the church. Portions of the roof fell on firefighters, who had to evacuate and initiate a defensive fire attack, according to Capt. Antonio Negrete of the San Gabriel Fire Department.
Crews managed to stop the blaze before it reached the altar, museum and the adjacent rectory.
More than 85 firefighters from 12 engine companies and five truck companies battled the blaze, which took more than two hours to knock down.
Damage, including projected loss of revenue, has been estimated at more than $9 million.
John David Corey, 59, has been ordered to stand trial on two counts of arson of a structure and one count each of arson during a state of emergency and second-degree commercial burglary. A trial date is still pending.
The San Gabriel Mission is open to visitors from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2-8 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.