The Mission Dolores Cemetery, San Francisco

Mission Dolores, San Francisco

Mission Dolores, San Francisco

The oldest building in San Francisco, the Mission San Francisco de Asis, more commonly known as Mission Dolores, was built in San Francisco in 1776.


In the back, behind a white adobe wall, is the old cemetery. It is one of the quietest spots in this urban sprawl.


Between 1769 and 1833, 21 Spanish missions  were established by Franciscan priests throughout what was later to become the state of California. The sixth mission to be founded was the San Francisco one. The missions were the origins of the state’s communities.


Mission San Francisco De Asís

Old Mission on left, Basilica on right. Photo: Robert A. Estremo, courtesy Wikipedia.

More information about the missions.


The old San Francisco Mission has a small chapel, museum, cemetery, and tiny gift shop; the basilica next door hosts regular Catholic church services. As a city, state, and national historical landmark, it is also a popular destination for tour buses.


Original adobe walls, inside the Mission Dolores

Original adobe walls, inside the Mission Dolores

History of Mission Dolores here.


Mission Dolores, 1856. Courtesy Wikipedia.





The chapel is popular and interesting, decorated and devoted. But it is busy with tourists and sounds echo.


Chapel interior. Courtesy Wikipedia

The cemetery, however, is hushed–with old rose bushes, palm trees, birds, and vibrant sunshine. This is where I like to be.


There are only two cemeteries in San Francisco, this tiny plot is one of them. It was originally much bigger.


Mission Dolores Cemetery

Mission Dolores Cemetery

Today the earthquake-rippled sidewalks still lead you down a path of centuries-old gravestones. It holds the markers of San Francisco’s pioneers, leaders, old residents. There is also a revered sculpture of Father Junipero Serra.


I like to linger here among the broken graves with worn-off names, quietly listening to the sound of the chickadee singing overhead, feeling the penetrating warmth of the sun.


Mission Dolores Cemetery

Mission Dolores Cemetery

Sometimes I think about the people who shaped this city, sometimes I think about Alfred Hitchcock who filmed a scene from “Vertigo” right here, and sometimes I wonder how long it will be before my parking time runs out.


Photo credit: Jet Eliot unless otherwise specified


Golden Gate GraveyardYou can read more about Mission Dolores in my newly released mystery novel. Purchase here or at Amazon or any other major book retailer.



58 thoughts on “The Mission Dolores Cemetery, San Francisco

  1. Jet we visited the mission on our trip to San Francisco last year. I had planned to write a post and then it somehow drifted to the back of my mind. Thanks for reigniting my interest. I found exploring it in the middle of the city fascinating. Let’s hope this Golden Gate Graveyard rests in peace.

    • I am happy to hear you visited here, Sue. It is just as you say, a peaceful little spot in the middle of the city, and a fascinating find. I smiled at your comment about GGG resting in peace. If anyone or anything can rest in peace in SF, this is the place. Many smiles to you, my friend.

  2. Fascinating because I have been right there so many times without knowing or visiting the cemetry. My oldest son lives in S.F. And it is our favorite American city, so we visit often. Next time I will have to check out the cemetry after the park ……

    Congrats on the newly rekeased novel! Impressive.


    • One of my favorite things about the cemetery is it is hidden behind the adobe façade, a quiet little corner. I hope you do visit here next time you’re in SF, Peta, I know you will both like it. Thanks for the congrats. 🙂

  3. thanks for the reminder, Jet!
    can’t help but have
    unpleasant feelings
    when remembering their mission
    was to convert & punish
    indigenous “heathen natives”.
    several of the missions have
    nice gardens which cover over
    mass burial sites of local Indians,
    including santa barbara & my hometown of sonoma.

  4. It’s good to see the place itself after reading your book Jet, though I can’t say I am at all keen on the missionary mission.

    Your book was great! I do not often read mystery/detective novels these days but I really enjoyed this and you touched on a number of issues that need to be addressed by wider society. Good for you. Now I will have to read your Australian adventure 😄

  5. Very nice location for an excellent movie.”Vertigo” is a successful film that many people remember, I love the soundtrack music composed by Bernard Herrmann, it’s hypnotic and filled with emotion. Great post my friend! 🙂

    • There’s a photo at the Mission of Alfred Hitchcock filming there on location. I love AH films and watch them frequently, never tire of them. But I must admit I am new to Bernard Herrmann. I remember you mentioned BH in the Fort Point post comment, another SF place where Hitchcock filmed. So I am now going to pay more attention to the soundtracks Bernard Herrmann composed. Thanks so much for raising my awareness, HJ.

    • I am sure it would be too, Andrea. That it was the first spot of settlement long ago, and that today it is surrounded by activity, and yet here there is still tranquility…all makes it really special. Thanks so much for “joining” me there.

  6. The mission of the mission aside, what a lovely building – I remember our spring drive by – and hope to visit more fully another time! (I certainly hope we all have plenty of time left on our parking meters…)
    Thanks, Jet, and I hope your weekend is going well!

    • If you and Mrs. PC return sometime, I will personally take you there, pc. We’ll visit and set the “mission of the mission” aside together. My thanks for your visit and fun words. Having a great weekend. Just got back from a few days of birding up in Sacramento, still feeling the lightness. I hope you are enjoying yours as well, and staying warm.

      • We will have to do that!
        Nothing like a trip away to raise a smile, and it sounds like you had a fine time birding around Sacramento (is birding a word?!)
        I’m off work, Judy has another day and then done, and after a few seasonal items with friends and family this week, we’re going to go hide out for a few days. A pretty good mix…I just have to shake off the gift of a stinking cold a student gave me. Can’t understand why Judy would rather work than witness the man flu…
        Enjoy your week!

  7. I lived in the Mission District for awhile, but somehow never made it to this lovely little spot. I’ve noticed that the only time I would visit the must-see spots any place I lived was when I had to do “the tour” for visitors. This one somehow never made it on the list.

    • I, too, mostly did SF tours for friends until I started researching for the book. Now I am driving around finding places off the radar all the time. Although with the mission cemetery, I had a friend who introduced me to it 30 years ago and we went there often together (he has since passed) and this spot I have always gone to whenever I could. You can’t even see it’s a cemetery from the street, that might have been why you never went, Gunta. I always so enjoy your visits and comments, Gunta, thanks so much.

  8. I’ve been there before. The location is interesting because you really get to step out of the bustle of San Francisco. And luckily, there’s no crowd when I was there.
    I remember Ike’s Place Sandwich nearby. It was featured on Man vs. Food.
    The parking time made me laugh – because that is so Californian. AHihihi 😀

    • I love it that you’ve been here, Rommel. I associate you with Japan so much, I smile knowing you have been here to the cemetery and to Ike’s Place too. You know Calif. well enough to know that parking is such a big deal. We all go around with little clocks in our heads ticking, reminding us how much time left we have. Meter maids haunt us in our dreams. ha. Thanks for making me laugh about this, my friend~~

  9. Enjoyed the peacefulness, and the history, of Mission Dolores reflected in your post, Jet. Missed this on our visit, but it’s now on the list of places to visit next time. Thank you for sharing.

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