Exploring the California Missions: Mission San Juan Capistrano

This post is part of a series by a group of California Kid Bloggers on exploring the California Missions. Over the next few months California’s missions will be featured by various bloggers. You can follow along here.
Mission San Juan Capistrano is located in southern Orange County, 3 blocks west of I-5 on Ortega Highway.  It is one of the few missions to have been founded twice and is the 7th Alta California Mission.
It was first founded by Father Fermin Lasuen, on October 30th 1775, after Father Junipero Serra convinced Spanish Captain Rivera that a new mission was needed to interrupt the long journey between San Diego and San Gabriel. The mission was named after Saint John or Capestrano of Capistrano, Italy, who had been made a saint in 1724.
Just eight days later, Native Californians near the San Diego Mission had attacked and burned much of Mission San Diego de Alcala.  The fathers immediately returned to San Diego, but first Father Fermin Lasuen buried the San Juan Capistrano Mission bells to keep them safe.
A year later, once things were settled back in San Diego, Father Junipero Serra returned to San Juan Capistrano Mission, dug up the bells, and re-founded it on November 1, 1776, All Saints Day.
I can see why Mission San Juan Capistrano is sometimes called “Jewel of the Missions” because it is a beautiful place to visit.  It has undergone extensive renovation throughout the years.
Here are some of the things you can see at Mission San Juan Capistrano:
This olive mill was built around the 1880s and was used to crush olives for juice extraction.  The olive oil was used for cooking, lamps, medicines and protective leather balm.

One of the great things about the tour here is that they have an audio tour designed for children of all ages. (The girls are sitting at one of the audio locations, listening to the story).

In the museum portion of the mission, it showed how the priests lived back in the 1700’s.  This was a depiction of their room with rope beds.  Doesn’t look very comfortable does it?

Some other living quarters for the missionaries and monks.
Resurgam: Latin for “I shall rise again”.

Every year, the swallows leave in October to head south to Argentina for the winter and return every year around March 19. That’s when the miracle of the “Swallows” of Capistrano takes place each year at Mission San Juan Capistrano. You can see some of their mud nests (made from mud and saliva), which are clinging to the outer walls.

The padres kept records of batisms, confirmations, marriages, buriels and agriculture production levels.
The Riderless Horse Statue, “The Empty Saddle,” is a tribute to Portola riders who have died.
 This is the footwear the Acjachemen wore to protect their feet.
 Tallow Cooking Stoves- Tallow, a valuable commodity during the mission period, was rendered from the fat of cows and sheep for use in candle, grease, ointment and soap production.
Blacksmiths made things out of iron or steel.  The Mission’s first blacksmiths were skilled craftsman recruited from Baja, California.  They came to teach Native American men their skill.  Blacksmiths made items like swords, nails, spurs, knives, hammers, hingers, axes, plows and more.
The Mission padres required wine for Mass. Father Serra wanted to produce wine in California instead of waiting for supply ships to import it, so he asked the Viceroy in Mexico City to send grape cuttings to California.  It is thought that the vine cuttings were planted at the missions around Southern California around 1779.  (please note the grapes growing on the arbor are not originial vines from the Mission period.)
The garden here is absolutely beautiful.  The children especially loved looking at all the koi fish swimming around in the pond.
 The chapel is called the Father Serra’s Church because it is the only building still standing where it is known that he said mass. In fact, historians think it may be the oldest building in all of California.
The impressive golden altar that you see below is not the original. It was a gift from Archbishop Cantwell of Los Angeles who had received it from Spain in 1906. It was so tall that they had to raise the ceiling to fit it inside.
These 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. The two largest bells were cast in 1796, the others in 1804.
 My children and I had a wonderful time here!  For information about tours to Mission San Juan Capistrano…click here.

Each year, as part of their California History lesson, 4th graders throughout the state study the Missions and their importance in California History.  Please check regularly to see other California Kid Bloggers post their  virtual tours of the California Missions.