Armchair photo tours: Santa Ysabel Asistencia

Photos by Cheryl Landes

I discovered the Santa Ysabel Asistencia during a trip to see the superbloom in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in 2017. It’s an hour’s drive northeast of San Diego (53 miles).

The original mission was founded nearby on September 20, 1818 as a outpost for the Mission San Diego, when Padre Fernando Martin celebrated the first mass there. Within four years, the mission had a chapel, granary, cemetery, adobe houses, and 450 neophytes from the Luiseño and Diegueño tribes.

In 1850, the roof of the original mission caved in, and shelters were built against one wall so that services could continue. The current mission was built and dedicated in 1924.

Masses are held on Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 9 a.m. Reconciliation is at 3:30 p.m. The Indian Museum, hall, and gift shop are open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. daily from Labor Day until Memorial Day, and 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. for the summer.

When I stopped by on a Saturday at 11 a.m., the buildings were not open, so all of my pictures are outside. has a few pictures of the chapel’s interior.


The sign in the photo above reads:

“Angel of the Lost Bells

“An original carving by Steven Behardi inspired by the search for the lost bells of the mission of Santa Ysabel. The padre and the Indians bought two bells 150 years ago for six burro load of barley. The oldest bells in California, made in 1723 and 1767. In 1926 the bells mysteriously disappeared.

“The mission has not given up hope that the bells will be returned. The day after the bells disappeared Jose Maria Osuna found the clappers. They were returned in 1959 and are now kept in the Indian Museum.”


The sign in the photo above reads:

“Floor of the old mission 1818. This floor – uncovered in Sept. 1967 – was laid by the padres and Indians of Santa Ysabel Mission in 1818. It extends north for over 300 feet. It included chapel – workshops – etc. In 1818 500 Indians received baptism on this floor.”


The best place to find updates is on the Santa Ysabel Indian Mission Facebook page.

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