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Los Angeles – Nashville – Provo, UT

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Mission San Juan Capistrano

san juan capistrano

The 21 California missions spread from the south in San Diego to the north in Sonoma – over 600 miles. They were established between 1769 and 1833. Mission San Juan Capistrano was the seventh out of the 21 missions founded.

Mission San Juan Capistrano has a particularly special meaning for me (completely unrelated to the actual history of the mission). In elementary school, I selected this mission for my mission report and made (with my mom's help) a swallow out of clay representing the tradition of the swallows coming every spring. 

Since I don't have my mission report anymore, here's a Wikipedia synopsis of what the missions were for:

"Founded by Catholic priests of the Franciscan order to evangelize the Native Americans, the missions led to the creation of the New Spain province of Alta California and were part of the expansion of the Spanish Empire into the most northern and western parts of Spanish North America.
Following long-term secular and religious policy of Spain in Spanish America, the missionaries forced the native Californians to live in settlements called reductions, disrupting their traditional way of life. The missionaries introduced European fruits, vegetables, cattle, horses, ranching, and technology. The missions have been accused by critics, then and now, of various abuses and oppression. In the end, the missions had mixed results in their objectives: to convert, educate, and transform the natives into Spanish colonial citizens."

So although it's a really beautiful place, and it taught the native people new technology and farming techniques, it also brought disease, and once baptized, you couldn't leave the grounds without permission. So there is some sad history as well.

Other than the one time in elementary school, the only other time I've visited the mission was about six years ago with my friend Kana. It's always fun to come back to a place you went when you were really young to see how it compares with your initial memories.

I was so excited to go back these last two times. The first time I went back six years ago, I definitely got the audio guide (there are other free tours available if you time it right) that comes with your ticket.

This time, Matt and I were able to meet up with my friend Steph and since we only had about an hour, so we paid the $10 ticket, grabbed a map, and wandered around the grounds. The gardens are beautiful, there's a chapel that's still in use today, and you can see where The Great Stone Church used to be (it took nine years to build, but unfortunately was only used for six years before it collapsed during an earthquake (this also happened during a mass, and essentially buried forty people alive, which is most likely why they did not attempt to rebuild it)). The church itself, despite it's collapse was a modern marvel at the time.

san juan capistrano
san juan capistrano
 San Juan Capistrano has the distinction of being home to the oldest building in California still in use: this chapel, called Serra's Chapel, was built in 1782. 

San Juan Capistrano has the distinction of being home to the oldest building in California still in use: this chapel, called Serra's Chapel, was built in 1782. 

san juan capistrano
san juan capistrano
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san juan capistrano
san juan capistrano
san juan capistrano
san juan capistrano

An hour is still worth the $10 ticket. It's honestly just a nice place to come and relax for a bit, and learn some more history about California. In addition, the gift shop had so many things I wanted to buy, and if we had even more time I'd love to look around the area — there are a lot of cute shops and restaurants. I'll be back again. Maybe next time when the swallows are there! For now, you can join me in watching the development on the swallow cam

I'll leave you with this story:

The Legend of the Cliff Swallows of Capistrano
In his book, Capistrano Nights, Father St. John O’Sullivan, Pastor of Mission San Juan Capistrano (1910-1933) tells the story of how the swallowscame to call the Mission home.
One day, while walking through town, Father O’Sullivan saw a shopkeeper, broomstick in hand, knocking down the conically shaped mud swallow nests that were under the eaves of his shop. The birds were darting back and forth through the air squealingover the destruction of their homes.
“What in the world are you doing?” O’Sullivan asked.
“Why, these dirty birds are a nuisance and I am getting rid of them!” the shopkeeper responded.
“But where can they go?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care,” he replied, slashing away with his pole. “But they’ve no business here, destroying my property.”
Father O’Sullivan then said, “Come on swallows, I’ll give you shelter. Come to the Mission. There’s room enough there for all.”
The very next morning, Father O’Sullivan discovered the swallows busy building their nests outside Father Junípero Serra’s Church.
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