U. S. Mission Trail / The Mission Trail Today - The Spanish Missions in California
Slide Show This site is owned, designed, and operated by Kenneth A. Larson who has over a quarter century of experience in design and construction of scenery for the Entertainment Industry and Theme Parks using Computer Aided and Traditional approaches to Design. Ken also has experience in other areas of Design.
Select photographs of my many visits to The Missions of the United States South and Southwest built by Spain and Mexico between 1565 and 1823.
All photographs taken by Kenneth A. Larson. All rights reserved. © 2008 - 2013.

Explanation.

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#7, San Juan Capistrano

Founded November 1, 1776
by Father Junipero Serra.
Capistrano.

Personal Observations

I visited San Juan Capistrano as a child and again in 1999 after dropping off my beloved dog for two weeks of cancer treatment only a half hour away. I took my then girlfriend in August 2001 and in 2003 (by then my new wife) we took the train to Capistrano with fellow volunteers from the George C. Page Museum.

Mission Capistrano is one of the better known missions and there is quite a bit to see. Sadly, the "Stone Church" was destroyed by an earthquake soon after completion and has never been restored. As a result, it lacks an iconic church facade as most of the other missions do.

Once known for the famous returning swallows, even these small and faithful birds are less plentiful as agriculture has given way to development and the swallows find less food in the form of insects. Efforts are underway to encourage their return.

Photo-Art
Mission Art & Photo-Art

The surrounding town of Capistrano is popular with tourists as the town abounds with boutiques and restaurants.

History

San Juan Capistrano is possibly the most famous of the missions, because of the swallows. Traditionally, the swallows return each March 19th, Saint Joseph's Day and there is a large celebration. In reality, they arrive around that date. In recent years, the swallows have been less plentiful do to urban development and a reduction of agricultural land providing insects for the birds to feed upon. Also some restoration efforts at the mission have damaged the nest that the swallows reuse from year to year. Efforts are underway to encourage the swallows to return. San Juan Capistrano is also sometimes referred to as the "Jewel of the Missions."

San Juan Capistrano was founded November 1, 1776 by Father Junipero Serra. This was in fact the second founding. Originally Father Lasuen founded the mission on October 30, 1775 but the site was quickly abandoned after only eight days following an devastating attack on Mission San Diego. The bells were buried and the padres fled to the safety of the Presidio in San Diego. Father Junipero Serra returned a year later and retrieved the bells and reestablished the mission.

A small adobe chapel, Father Serra's Church, was built the first year. This chapel is one of only two still standing in which Father Sarra is known to have said Mass. This chapel is still in use.

The stone church, the largest mission chapel ever built was destroyed by an earthquake shortly after construction. Construction on the church began in 1796 and took nine years to complete. Only six years after completion, the earthquake of 1812 destroyed most of the church and killed 40 people attending mass. The church was built in the shape of a cross and because of the reinforcing nature of this design, the area around the center was less damaged but the front, farthest from the altar, was most damaged. The 120 foot tall bell tower also collapsed. The padres did not attempt to rebuild the church and moved services back to the original chapel. There are no plans to restore the chapel, the scaffold is part of a stabilizing procedure. The native men worked to transport the stone and assemble the stones under the guidance of Mexican stonemason Isidor Aguilar. The native women began to ask to help and were given the task of gathering the smaller stones. It is one of only three stone mission churches in California. Other stone churches are at Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo and Mission Santa Barbara.

As with the other missions, secularization saw the end to this mission's prosperity. As happened at other missions, some of the former holdings were returned to the church in 1865 but this helped little to reverse the decey of the previous three decades. Charles Lummis established a permanent protection in 1895. It was not until 1910 that restoration began and not until 1922 that restoration began on the adobe chapel. The mission is now beautifully restored and one of the larger mission complexes in California. The mission is now in the heart of the charming town of Capistrano, a few miles off the I-5 Freeway, and a short walk from an Amtrak station.

Like all missions, Capistrano had farms and ranches to support the Mission. One Estancia supporting San Juan Capistrano was in present day Costa Mesa and can be visited as the Estancia Diego Sepulveda.

Address and Directions

31522 Camino Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92693

Exit I-5 in the City of Capistrano at Ortega Highway (State Route 74) west. If coming from the north, you can also exit Junipero Serra Road west and follow it to left onto Camino Capistrano and follow about one mile.

Or, take the Amtrak to Capistrano and walk across the street.

Photography Gallery

put church exterior photo here put church interior photo here (chapel)
San Juan
Capistrano Mission
Main Page
Grounds
Garden
Church
Church
Convento
Chapel
Other Buildings
Other Buildings
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Outdoor Exhibits
Cemetery
Indoor Exhibits
Memory Garden
Square
Mission Dam
Termite Treatment
Surrounding Area
Other Related Sites
San Juan Capistrano
Campanario and bells, built in 1813. Photo date: 10-31-99.
San Juan Capistrano
I had never been to this mission in the spring before. The gardens were filled with beautiful flowers. 5-17-03.
San Juan Capistrano
Cathedral stabilization. The Stone Church was destroyed by earthquakei n 1812. 10-31-99.

Interior wall of cathedral. The large square hole was used to support scaffolding during construction. Note the fossil shell in lower left and another just to the left of the bottom of the square hole. 5-17-03.
San Juan Capistrano
Chapel interior. 10-31-99.
San Juan Capistrano
Quarters. 10-31-99.
San Juan Capistrano
Wall section. 10-31-99.
San Juan Capistrano
Garden. 10-31-99.
San Juan Capistrano
Workroom building. 10-31-99.
San Juan Capistrano
Excavations. Work areas beyond. 10-31-99.
San Juan Capistrano
Column detail. 5-17-03.
San Juan Capistrano
Arch detail. 5-17-03.
San Juan Capistrano
Fountain. 5-17-03.
San Juan Capistrano
Court yard. 5-17-03.
San Juan Capistrano
Colonnade. 10-31-99.
San Juan Capistrano
The "River of Life" motif is very common on doors of many missions. 10-31-99.
Interior of Ap, a Chumash home. Photo date: 5-17-03






Old Stone Church



























Termite Treatment



















The returning Swallow made Mission San Juan Capistrano famous and are remembered in this decoration on a freeway sound wall as the Highway passes through the town.
links here

Sources:

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This page last updated: Sunday, 11-Aug-2013 02:32:06 EDT
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