Mission San Juan Capistrano Entrance
Flower Gardens by Great Stone Church Ruins
Statue of Father Junipero Serra and Native American Juaneno Indian Boy in Garden
Stone Arch Ruins of Great Stone Church
Two Largest Bells Preserved from Great Stone Church (San Vicente and San Juan –cast in 1796)
Sacred Garden and Fountain
Altar Covered in Gold Leaf in Serra’s Chapel
Golden Altar is Adorned with 52 Angel Faces. Building is Oldest in California in Current Use.
Restored Painting of St. Joseph with Baby Jesus
Waterlilies Blooming in Fountain
Vibrant Pink Rock Purslane Flower in Garden
Koi in Courtyard Fountain
Cactus and Dome in Background of New Mission San Juan Capistrano
Altar at New Mission San Juan Capistrano
Murals at New Mission San Juan Capistrano
Song Album Cover for “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano”
Original Sheet Music for “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano”. Written by Leon Rene in 1939.
Cliff Swallow Pair at Mud Nest
Swallow Tile Purchased in Gift Shop
In spring we visited Mission San Juan Capistrano (between San Diego and Los Angeles). This historic church is known as the “Jewel of the California Missions”. It was founded in 1776 and contains a complex of adobe buildings (including Serra’s Chapel), along with gardens, fountains, and historical displays. The famous “mission grape” was first planted at San Juan Capistrano in 1779, and wine production began in 1783. The mission’s original “Great Stone Church” chapel was destroyed by an earthquake in 1812. At the time it was the largest stone building west of the Mississippi. The stone arch ruins are preserved on site, along with the original mission bells. Preservation efforts for the mission began in 1910 by Father St. John O’Sullivan, and restoration continues to the present day.
The city is famous for the return of the swallows to the area every March from Argentina. To celebrate there are parades, fiestas, and street fairs. The cliff swallows’ return is memorialized in a popular song written by Leon Rene in 1939 called “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano” (listen to a recording by the Ink Spots in 1940 at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUSC37bLuuU). The story of the swallows at the mission is at: http://www.missionsjc.com/preservation/swallowsstory.php.
In 1986 a new parish church was built adjacent to the mission that is similar in design and spirit to the original Great Stone Church. In the year 2000 Pope John Paul II honored the new Mission San Juan Capistrano with the title “Basilica”, and in 2003 it was designated a “National Shrine”. The church has 2-foot-thick walls that are engineered to withstand future earthquakes. The motifs on the sanctuary walls were painted over 18 months by Dr. Norman Neuerberg. For inspiration, he studied historical records of the Great Stone Church, and traveled to Father Serra’s homeland in Mallorca, Spain. More info about Mission San Juan Capistrano is at: http://www.missionsjc.com/ . Click on any of the pictures in this post for more detailed information (including song lyrics).