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As you pass beyond the rugged Desierto de Vizcaíno on your way to experience the delights of whale watching or to enjoy pre-Columbian rock art sites of the Sierra de San Francisco, make sure to set aside a few hours to enjoy magnificent Misión San Ignacio de Kadakaamán. This architectural treasure is the pride of San Ignacio and well-known as one of the most beautiful Misións in all of Baja California.
The oasis where Misión San Ignacio de Kadakaamán now stands was once a Cochimí rancheria called Kadakaamán. Even three hundred years ago, its mid-peninsular location was very appealing for human habitation ~ due in large part to the abundant Arroyo de Kadakaamán (Creek of the Reeds) surrounded by lush palm trees which springs forth unexpectedly in the midst of the desert. When first designated as a future Misión site by Jesuit missionary Francisco María Piccolo in 1706, the Cochimí population living in this rancheria was thriving and exceeded 5,000.
Construction on the original adobe Misión began in earnest in 1728, under the leadership of Jesuit priest Juan Bautista de Luyando. Agriculture became a central focus of the Misión site, and travelers today can still see the remains of an impressive levee built out of lava rock, sand and dirt that was intended to protect the Misión from annual flooding of the Arroyo.
After expulsion of the Jesuit missionaries by the Spanish Crown during the late 1700s, the site remained a pivotal base for the Franciscans and later Dominicans for expansion throughout the central Baja peninsula.
The gorgeous Spanish Colonial architecture of the Misión building which travelers appreciate today was completed by Dominican priest Juan Crisóstomo Gómez in the year 1786. It features monumental walls made from lava blocks four feet thick, lumber transported from the Sierras, and doors brought over from the mainland of New Spain. Two impressive plaques flank the entrance, one of which shows the crowned lions and castles of Old Spain; overlapping globes on its neighbor to the right symbolize eighteenth century Spanish unity across the oceans.
Visitors today will be equally impressed by the sumptuous interior of Misión San Ignacio de Kadakaamán, including its alter made from carved wood and gold, seven oil paintings, and a statue of St. Ignacius Loyola.
Although Misión San Ignacio de Kadakaamán fell into disrepair after the staggering extinction of its native Cochimí (98% of whom died from European smallpox, plague and venereal disease within 100 years of Jesuit arrival), the Dominican built Misión structure has been in continuous use since its creation. Restored to its original glory in 1976, this beautiful Misión now serves San Ignacio’s Spanish Catholic population for Mass, daily worship, weddings and funerals.
Wikipedia.Org, Misión San Ignacio Kadakaamán, Author Unknown, Cited on March 19, 2007.