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Old Town San Diego

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In 1868, a cornerstone was laid by Father Antonio Ubach for the Church of the Immaculate Conception in San Diego's Old Town. This Catholic church was built as a space for worship that would be large enough to celebrate masses for a growing parish of families living in the area. Previously, the parish had be centered at the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, a much smaller building that converted into a Catholic place of worship in November 1858. As the parish quickly outgrew the chapel, it was decided that a new church would be built. However, plans were stalled for years due to a lack of funding and a fire that swept through Old Town. Consequently, the Church of the Immaculate Conception was not completed until 1917. Since that time, however, it has held weekly masses for its parishioners, and it celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 2017.

Exterior of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, San Diego

Cloud, Sky, World, Tree


Building, Azure, Blue, Sky

Stained glass window detail

Flower, Plant, Petal, Botany

Choir Balcony

Building, Window, Door, Wood


Decoration, Christmas tree, Nature, Lighting

Stained glass window detail

Leaf, Amber, Wood, Symmetry


Fixture, Wood, Architecture, Line

Virgin Mary statue

Plant, Sculpture, Statue, Art

The Church of the Immaculate Conception is a Catholic Church located in San Diego's Old Town historic district. On July 2, 1769, Saint Junipero Serra celebrated First Holy Mass in California, close to the present location of the church. St. Serra planted a cross in the ground to mark the site of the San Diego Mission and Presidio.

In 1849, a parish was established in Old Town, and a cornerstone was laid for an small adobe church in 1851. Because the church was small, masses were celebrated in the homes of residents living in Old Town. In 1858, a Chapel of the Immaculate Conception was dedicated by Father John Moliner, who was its pastor. This was the first church in Old Town. During this period, Father Antonio Ubach also officiated at the chapel. He was characterized by the author Helen Hunt Jackson in her novel, Ramona, as a character named "Gaspara." The novel described Fr. Ubach and his chapel in the following manner:

"In a neglected weedy open stood his chapel, a poverty-stricken little place, its walls imperfectly white-washed, decorated by a few coarse pictures and broken sconces of looking-glass... a few candles lighted the room. Everything about it was in union with the atmosphere of the place, the most profoundly melancholy in all Southern California."

Today, the chapel remains standing as the Old Adobe Chapel, located on Conde Street.

In 1868, Father Antonio Ubach laid the cornerstone for a new Church of the Immaculate Conception, a building large enough in which to celebrate weekly masses. However, a fire swept through the area, and for several decades, the construction of the church was stalled by a lack of funding. In 1917, the church was finally completed. The building was indeed large enough to hold masses, and the parish grew in size. In 1919, the church was dedicated by Archbishop John J. Cantwell of Los Angeles.

In 1998, the Church of the Immaculate Conception was retrofitted to withstand seismic damage from earthquakes. Today, the church serves several hundred families living throughout San Diego. It offers a live stream of one of its weekly masses, and it frequently receives visitors from all around the world.

Home, Church of the Immaculate Conception. Accessed July 18th 2021.

Larkin, Ruth. Historical Landmarks of San Diego County, San Diego History Center. July 1st 1968. Accessed July 18th 2021.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Church of the Immaculate Conception

Church of the Immaculate Conception

Church of the Immaculate Conception

Church of the Immaculate Conception

Church of the Immaculate Conception

Church of the Immaculate Conception

Stained Glass

Stained Glass