The original Mission church was built in 1809 but was destroyed by an earthquake in 1868. In 1985 the replacement, designed just as the church had originally stood, was complete. The earthquake spared the west wing, so when you start your tour in the museum, you will be standing in an original building.
The museum itself is excellent, although small, and includes examples of how the Ohlone Indians lived at the time the Mission was founded as well as how the Spanish missionaries lived.
After we finished in the museum, we exited through the gift shop to the courtyard. The court yard was a good size but fairly sparse in plants and decorations. There is a nice fountain in the middle and beyond the fence you can see the rolling mountains.
Passing through the courtyard you enter the church half way between the front doors and the pulpit. Looking straight ahead the first thing you notice is that the side balcony is beautifully painted as well as the columns that run the length of the church. I found this chapel more beautiful then San Francisco’s Mission simply because the wall and ceiling are so simple that the colors of the altar and the organ really stand out and make a statement.
The kids and I had a big talk about being quiet and respectful in the church, but we had it all to ourselves on a Saturday morning!
I am one of those people who does not appreciate graveyards. I generally find them boring and this one was no exception. However, it did have one fascinating detail that I loved. Above the door to reenter the church there was a skull and cross bones described as being a tribute to the mostly unmarked graves of the native people and original Spaniards.