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The San Gabriel mission church was made with stone, brick, and mortar, and is one of the best of all missions, and the oldest structure of its kind south of Monterey. The church is 150 feet long, the walls are 30 feet high, and will accomondate approximately 400 people. The walls are five feet thick. The church was completed in 1805.
The alter is orginal, it was made in Mexico City and brought to the mission in 1790's. Also within the santuary is the painting of Our Lady of Sorrows, 300 years old. Upon reaching the mission site, the fathers encountered savages armed lead by chiefs, they attempted to prevent the founding of the missions. The fathers, fearful of a battle which some could be killed, showed them the painting "Our Lady of Sorrows". immediately, as transfixed by her sight, they threw down their bows and arrows.The chiefs laid before the picture the beads they wore around their necks as a sign of peace and respect.
Along the walls are paintings of the Apostles painted in Spain, also about 300 years old. Within the old Mission Church is the baptistry. There is a sterling silver baptismal shell brough by the founding fathers over 200 years ago. In November of 1771, the first Indian child was baptisted.
Inside the museum you can see some of the rooms used for missionaries sleeping quarters. . The room is very simple and bare. It has only a bed and a wash basin. However, the head board is a beautifully painted wood carving of a religious scene.
Thehe Bell Tower contains six ancient bells of heavy design. The bell tower was built after the earthquake of 1812. The bells of the mission were beloved by Father Serra, who welcomed their joyful tunes as a voice from above. On the right side of the bell tower there is a stairway used to go up to the choir loft.
The building on the northeast corner of the former padres living quaters was originally used as a winery.
In the early days of the mission the only dependable water supply came from Wilson Lake, which was near San Marino. The aqueduct was built out of clay pipes which brought the water from the open ditch to the aqueduct. From there the water was piped to the tannery and the kitchen, as well as nearby areas.
The kitchen is a replica of the kitchen in the early mission days, built on an original foundation. The indians used stone implements to pound the wheat and corn into flour and to grind the meat for making meat balls and tortillas.
The cannon, a four pounder, this intriguing old Frijolera (Bean Shooter) belonged to the original mission arsenal. It was buried and forgotten at the end of the Mexican War in 1847, but rediscovered in a dry river bed after a disastrous flood in 1914.
The soap and candle factory consisted of four large furnaces or boilers. Each held 2000-2500 gallons. Each furnace was made of brick and stone and lime. There was a large iron pot or kettle set in each furnace so that fire from below could keep it boiling. The equipment was stolen during the Mexican War and the factory was used very little after that.
The cemetery was used for burials from 1778 to 1865, and faded archives reveal that 6,000 Indians were buried here during that period. Many of them were stricken in the devastating Cholera and small pox epidemics of 1825. Antonio was the first Indian to be buried in the cemetery. Antonio died on October 20, 1778. It is the oldest cemetery in Los Angeles County. Approximately 6,000 Indians are buried at the cemetery as well as the Claretians, who had served the mission for many years.
In the sturdily built vats the cowhides were processed for use in the making of all leather goods in the mission. The hides were first "cured" in salt brine. After remaining in the brine for several days, Gabrielino Indians removed all the hair and flesh by hand. Then the skins were immersed in the tanning agent, which was extracted from bark, wood, fruit and leaves. Cured leather was the missions most valuable trade product.
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