The Mission of San Juan Capistrano, also known as "The Jewel of the Missions," is the only mission located in Orange County, California, and is located at 26801 Ortega Highway, San Juan Capistrano, California. My husband and I took a detour form our northern journey on the Pacific Coast Highway, Route 1, to visit the Mission, as it was one I've always wanted to see.
Much of California's history began with the Spanish Missions. The chain of 21 missions along California's El Camino Real ("The Royal Highway") represents the first arrival of non-Native Americans to California. The California Mission Chain was started in 1769 by Father Junipero Serra at the direction King Charles III of Spain. King Charles wanted to establish permanent settlements in "Alta California," to keep control of the land as other people and countries were beginning to come to the area, and also to convert the natives to Christianity so that they could become good Spanish Citizens. The missions were placed a day's walk from each other, about thirty miles apart. The entire span of missions along the El Camino Real is 650 miles.
San Juan Capistrano was the 7th mission and named for Crusader Saint John of Capistrano. It is now a historic landmark and museum consisting of 10-acre grounds of gardens, fountains and adobe preserved architecture. You can read the entire history of the Mission of San Juan Capistrano on the mission's web site at this link
I was amazed by all the beautiful gardens on the mission grounds.....
...that were full of flowers even though it was the middle of October.
This beautiful pink bougainvillea vine growing up the side of abuilding was enormous!
.I saw so many butterflies flying around everywhere on the grounds.
One of the many arched corridor walkways in the Mission.
This is the entrance to the Serra Chapel, which was built in 1777. It is the oldest building still in use in California and the only surviving church where Father Serra said Mass.
The church is adorned with a beautiful 300 year old baroque gilded altarpiece that was imported from Spain.
Some more of the exquisitly detailed religious artifacts within the church.
Besides the gardens, other areas of interest within the Mission walls include the early adobe barracks, Friars' quarters, olive millstone, cemetery, aqueduct system, and the ruins of the Great Stone Church.
The "Great Stone Church" was designed in the shape of a cross, and once held seven domes and a bell tower so tall it could be seen from ten miles away. Begun in1797, it was completed in 1806, and was the grandest church in all of California. Sadly, itt was was severely damaged by an 1812 earthquake during the celebration of a Mass. Forty native worshipers, and two boys who had been ringing the bells in the tower, were buried under the rubble and lost their lives. They are interred in the Mission cemetery. The ruins are currently being preserved by archaeologists and engineers. A model of how the church looked before the earthquake can be seen in the forefront of the photo above.
Another view of the ruins of the Great Stone Church.
We planned to spend only an hour visiitng the Mission, but my husband and I were so enthralled by its beauty and solemnity, that we spent a longer time walking around the grounds.
From the soft gurgle of water flowing from its fountains...
...to the shade and coolness of its arbors....
I felt a sense of peace and timelessness there that I did not want to relinquish.
Visiting the Mission of San Juan Capistrano fulfilled a wish I had since I was a child, when I heard about the miracle of the yearly return of the Swallows to the Mission every March 19th, on St. Joseph's Day. They land at the mission as the bells ring in the church. Visitors from all over the world come to town awaiting their arrival and there are celebratory fiestas as well as a parade. You can read more about rhe retun of the Swallows on the Mission's web site at this link.
The piano in the photo above is in the mission and is the one that belonged to Leon Rene who wrote the tune"When the Swallows come back to Capistrano." The YouTube video below of Pat Boone singing the song shows what the Swallows look like and also some scenes from the Mission.
Unfortunately, I read that the large number of Swallows that once descended on the Mission have been declining over the yerars, due to over development in the area. Even so, enough still arrive to continue the celebration! I would love to be there one day when they arrive, wouldn't you love to be there too?
Happy Veteran's Day!
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