The Jewel in the Crown of California’s Missions – San Juan Capistrano

Welcome sign

Welcome sign

A part of our history, the California missions are located along a path that stretches approximately 600 miles from San Diego to just north of San Francisco. Each mission site was selected to be a one day horse ride further north, or a three-day walk. That translated to about 30 miles between each one.

This was one of the earliest attempts by Europeans to colonize the Pacific Coast area. Intended to be both a military and religious outpost, the Spanish Franciscan Order hoped to educate and convert the local Native Indians to Christianity.

Wooden cross still overshadows the courtyard

Wooden cross still overshadows the courtyard

Starting with San Diego de Alcalá in 1769 as the first mission and ending with San Francisco Solano in 1823, a total of twenty-one were built.

San Juan Capistrano was built in 1776 as  number seven and at the time was considered the Jewel in the Crown of California’s missions.

“This cathedral-like building was 180 feet long by 40 feet wide, and had a high-vaulted ceiling surmounted by seven domes fronted by a 120 foot tall bell tower. ” ~

San Juan Capistrano Mission

San Juan Capistrano Mission

“In December, 1812 a massive earthquake destroyed the Great Stone Church, killing 40 neophytes.”

Ruins after the earthquake

Ruins after the earthquake

“The four bells that hung in the Great Stone Church survived the earthquake, and were hung in a bell wall, one of the mission’s most picturesque features.”

Bell Wall

Bell Wall

Introducing agriculture, fruits, horses and cattle, the missionaries had mixed results in converting and “civilizing” the local inhabitants.  In the 1830’s, the Mexican government shut down the mission.

Today only a shell of the original glory remains.  The small chapel gives a glimpse into the beauty and grandeur that once shined here.   The missions are some of the state’s oldest structures and among the most-visited historic monuments.

The on site museum explains more of the history of the missions as well as the Native Americans that lived in the area in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.

Museum pieces

Museum pieces

The grounds are colorful with flowers, ponds and fountains, and lovely to explore.

Koi fishpond

Koi fish pond

Water lillies

Water lilies

Many Cliff Swallows travel 2000 miles each spring to return home to Capistrano around St. Joseph’s Day (March 19th).

For more information, history, location, hours and tours, click here.

Gratitude Moment: Today I am grateful for the many foundations, organizations and volunteers that are preserving our history and heritage so that future generations can learn from our failures and our successes.

About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our latest adventure. We hope you will join us!
This entry was posted in California, Photography, United States and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Jewel in the Crown of California’s Missions – San Juan Capistrano

  1. The gold alter reminds me of the temple in Guanajuato city at the Templo de San Cayetano!


  2. MSLR says:

    You can visit Oceanside Mission too – Old Mission San Luis Rey. Here is the webpage


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