I anticipated a warm, sunny day as I headed to San Juan Capistrano one recent morning. Yes, it was a bit foggy at first, but surely it would burn off, right? By the time I reached my destination, Mission San Juan Capistrano, the fog was more like a misty rain. Some days, I just don’t guess correctly. Well, rain or not, I was determined to see the mission!
I can’t resist flowers and raindrops, so to come upon the central courtyard with its lovely fountains and flowers was a treat. Lily ponds look great when the sun shines, but they’re even better on a misty day!
I expected to see roses, a flower that usually blooms in June. Instead, I found hollyhocks. I haven’t seen many of these since I left Michigan, so of course, I took a few photos.
Hollyhocks appeared throughout the grounds.
The bells of Mission San Juan Capistrano
I may be naive, but I associate missions with a certain look. They must have a bell tower! I didn’t see one during my visit to Capistrano. There is a Bell Wall with four bells that ring. The two small ones are original. The other two are copies cast from damaged originals.
You may wonder why there is no tower. The simple answer is “Earthquake.”
The Old Stone Church
My favorite part of the mission was the Old Stone Church. Yes, it’s a ruin, but the hint of monumental architecture lured me in. I took far more photos of the church than I did of hollyhocks!
The builders worked for nine years constructing this church. It stood for seven before the earthquake of 1812 toppled it. The 120-foot bell tower was leveled, hence the need for the Bell Wall. As for the two bells damaged by the earthquake, they now have a place of honor on the site of the old tower.
With the destruction of the church, the padres went back to holding services in the Serra Chapel. The mission was founded in 1776 and by 1783 Father Serra was holding services in this chapel, so it predates the Old Stone Church.
As with other missions, Native Americans contributed greatly to the construction and the decoration. Painted murals can be seen along the walls and above the windows. The golden retablo seen in the above image came to the mission in 1922 under the auspices of Father O’Sullivan, the Great Restorer. The alter is said to be 350 years old.
I wandered freely for a few hours. There is a lot to see including the historic industrial area of the mission, the vegetable gardens, and a secure room filled with the treasures of San Juan Capistrano. Of course, when your visit is over, you exit through the gift shop.
To see more images from my explorations of the mission, please click here.