Mission San Francisco Solano is located in the heart of the historic Sonoma Plaza. This mission marks the end of El Camino Real. Constructed in 1823, it was the last mission ever built, and is also the most northern mission. Mission San Francisco Solano was the only mission founded after Mexico’s independence from Spain, and the only one founded without prior approval of the church. It was across the street from this mission, at General Vallejo’s military barracks, where the first bear flag was raised over California in 1846, proclaiming California a republic while declaring independence from Mexico.
The 1840 adobe church was restored in 1913. San Francisco Solano is the second of only two missions that is a state park, so the church is not a dedicated Catholic Church. The bell hanging on a wooden frame outside the church is the original. Although a common feature in mission architecture, there was never a bell tower here. The padre’s quarters have been converted into a museum, full of beautiful California mission art, painted in the early 1900s by Chris Jorgensen. Interesting fact, if you run really fast next to the art exhibit you can learn all of California’s mission history in 2.5 seconds.
For the first time since we left Oceanside, we will not be following El Camino Real bells as we head northward. Instead we will follow signs for the redwoods.