Today, during Pope Francis’ historic first visit to the United States, Junipero Serra was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. Father Serra was declared a saint by the Holy See at a ceremony conducted by Pope Francis at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
Saint Junipero Serra played a large role in San Diego’s early history. The Franciscan friar established the first nine of 21 Roman Catholic Spanish missions in what today is California. The very first of those nine, founded on July 16, 1769, was located in San Diego. The primary purpose of the missions was to convert the native peoples to Christianity; another purpose was to solidify a claim over this valuable corner of the New World for Spain.
The Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá is located in Mission Valley and remains to this day an active church. It’s popularity as a destination for tourists and the faithful will likely increase with the canonization of Serra.
Because of Saint Junipero Serra’s historical importance in San Diego, many images of him are found throughout our city. Some of the most prominent and well known representations can be seen in Balboa Park. The park’s Spanish Colonial Revival Style buildings created for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition include lavish ornamentation, with many illustrations of people and scenes important to San Diego history.
The following notable bits of art in Balboa Park depict Saint Junipero Serra during his time in San Diego.