June 22, 1993 San Diego County, CA
Coming from Julian this was the sixth of nine landmarks in the series of June 22, and for the authentic feel of old Alta California, there’s just something about this free standing chapel along highway 79. A first impression has many factors, but for rolling up to a landmark the first time, a scenic road and easy approach really assist the mood, as did the little museum and gift shop.
The story for a future song from this writer would be the chapel bells; said to have been the oldest in California, dating back to 1723 and 1767, and stolen by some nimrod (or nimrods) in 1926, never to be seen again. The day after the theft Jose Maria Osuna found the clappers but kept them. They were returned in 1956. Today, a San Diego CSI would likely be taking a hard look at Jose no matter how much of a stand up guy he was in the day. The second question would be where did this little rural chapel get such fine old bells in the first place? Where the bells stood is an original carving by Steven Berardi called ‘Angel of the Lost Bells’ that was inspired by the search. To this day, hope remains there that the bells will return.
Plaque inscription: NO. 369 CHAPEL OF SANTA YSABEL (SITE OF) - The first mass at a site nearby was celebrated September 20, 1818 by Father Fernando Martin. By 1822, Santa Ysabel was an asistencia, or mission outpost, that had a chapel, a granary, several houses, a cemetery, and about 450 neophytes. After secularization in the 1830s, priestly visits became rare. When the roof caved in, after 1850, ramadas were erected against one wall and services were held there. Tradition asserts this site has been used for religious services since 1818. The present chapel was constructed in 1924.
Location: On State Hwy 79 (P.M. 21.8), 1.4 mi N of Santa YsabelN 33° 07.847 W 116° 04.705