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The craftsman
Vol. V, No. 4 (January 1904)

James, George Wharton
The Franciscan mission builders of California,   pp. 321-335 PDF (4.7 MB)


Page 327


FRANCISCAN MISSION BUILDINGS
  The first story of the towers is a high,
plain, solid wall with a simply molded cor-
nice, composed of few, but heavy and simple
members, upon which rest the second and
third stories, each receding about half the
thickness of the walls below. Each story
is furnished with a cornice similar to the one
below, and the two upper stories are pierced
with semi-circular arches for bells. The
walls of the second story are four feet three
inches in thickness, and the lower walls are
sustained by massive buttresses at the sides.
Both towers are surmounted by semi-circular
domes of masonry construction with cement
finish, above which rests the lantern sur-
mounted by the cross. This lantern is a
marked feature of Mission construction. It
is seen above the domes at San Buenaven-
tura, San Luis Rey, San Xavier del Bac
(Arizona), as well as on one or two of the
old churches at San Antonio, Texas.
  Another Mission feature is the addition
to the pediment. This consists of a part of
the main front wall raised above the pedi-
ment in pedestal form, and tapering in small
steps to the center, upon which rests a large
iron cross. This was undoubtedly a simple
contrivance for effectively supporting and
raising the Emblem of Salvation, in order
thereby more impressively to attract the
attention of the Indian beholder.
  This illustration also shows the style of
connecting the priests' quarters in the man-
ner before described. There is a colonnade
with fourteen semi-circular arches, set back
from the main fagade, and tiled, as are the
roofs of all the buildings.
  The careful observer may note another
distinctive feature which is seldom absent
from the Mission domes. This is the series
of steps at each "corner" of the half dome.
Several eminent architects have told me that
the purpose of these steps is unknown, but
to my simple, lay mind it is evident that they
were placed there purposely by the clerical
architects to afford easy access to the sur-
mounting cross; so that any accident to this
sacred symbol could be speedily remedied.
It must be remembered that the fathers were
skilled in reading some phases of the Indian
mind. They knew that an accident to the
Cross might work a complete revolution in
the minds of the superstitious Indians whose
conversion they sought. Hence common,
practical sense demanded speedy and easy
access to the cross in case such emergency
arose.
  Entirely different, yet clearly of the same
school, is the Mission San Gabriel Arch-
angel. The Mission itself was founded in
1771, but the stone church here pictured
was not completed until 1785. In this the
striking feature is the campanile, from
which the tower at the Glenwood Hotel, Riv-
erside, was undoubtedly   modeled. This
construction consists of a solid wall, pierced
at irregular intervals, with arches built to
correspond to the size of the bells which were
to be hung within them. The bells being of
varying sizes, there could be no regularity
in the arrangement of the arches, yet the
whole bell tower is beautiful in outline and
harmonious in general effect. On the left,
the wall is stepped back irregularly up to
the center bell-aperture, each step capped
with a simple projecting molded cornice, as
at Santa Barbara. The upper aperture is
crowned with a plain masonry elliptical
arch, upon which rests a wrought iron finial
in the form of a cross.
  The walls of San Gabriel are supported
by ten buttresses with pyramidal copings
                                      327


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