620 & 622 Vallejo St.

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San Francisco: the bay and its cities

122. First Roman Catholic parish church in San Francisco, ST. FRANCIS' CHURCH, 620 Vallejo St., owes its origin to the religious zeal of a group of the Gold Rush town's French residents, who persuaded a young officer of the United States Army to give them the use of a small room for services. Father Langlois, on his way from Oregon to eastern Canada by way of Cape Horn, was persuaded to remain as their pastor. In a new adobe chapel on the church's present site, on July 19, 1849, Father Langlois said Mass for the first time in the new building and administered the town's first Roman Catholic baptism. The French soon were joined by worshippers of so many other nationalities that in 1856 they withdrew to found a church of their own, Notres Dame des Victoires.

In the adobe chapel's schoolroom, on December 7, 1850, a reception was given for young Bishop Sadoc Alemany, just arrived to take charge of a diocese extending from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Since St. Francis' congregation was still smarting from the indignity of having been embezzled by an imposter of funds, Father Langlois is said to have insisted on the Bishop's credentials. When it appeared that San Francisco, rather than Monterey, would be the chief city of the diocese, he returned as Archbishop Alemany, his formal translation to the Metropolitan See of San Francisco occurring July 23, 1853. Here he took up residence in a wooden shanty adjoining the church, which served as his cathedral until dedication of St. Mary's on Christmas, 1854.

Construction of a new St. Francis Church was begun five years alter. Dedicated March 17, 1859, the fourteenth-century Gothic structure of cement-faced brick survived the 1906 fire with little enough damage to permit restoration. The interior is an aisled nave of seven bays with a shallow apse. In the apsi9dal arches above the ornate alter and reredos are a series of frescoes depicting events in the life of St. Francis. Two larger frescoes over the side altars portray the death of St. Francis and the showing of the Stigmata.