Twenty-one Spanish missions were constructed in Santa Clara and throughout what would become California and the United States from 1769 through 1823. Spanish Catholics of the Franciscan Order established missions in the area during this period to establish a series of military and religious outposts. The ultimate goal was to spread the Christian faith among the inhabitants of the new lands.
Mission Santa Clara de Asís was constructed on the site of an old Indian village in January 1777. It is the only mission to have been named after a woman. The mission still functions as a chapel today and is noted for its stained glass windows and elegant statues.
A fire in 1925 destroyed much of the original mission structure which was built in 1828, including the chapel. The church's functions were transferred to nearby St. Clare Parish Church just west of Santa Clara University. In 1929, the mission was restored and once again assumed its primary function as a chapel. It is still open to visitors every day. A mission museum is located on the campus offering a first-hand glimpse into the mission's history.
The first Christian cemetery in the Santa Clara Valley was established by the Franciscan Padres who created the city's Mission Santa Clara de Asis in 1777. In the span of 50 years, three more cemeteries were created as new churches were established. The current site is located where the mission now stands on the campus of Santa Clara University at the corner of Winchester Boulevard and Bellomy Street. Many Santa Clara Valley pioneers of varying social and cultural backgrounds are buried in these cemeteries. Elaborately carved headstones, bronze statues and other historic and truly beautiful cemetery art from the early days of the mission are still found in the cemetery. Family mausoleums on the cemetery grounds include imported stone, iron gates and stained glass windows.