My son, DIP Jr, is in the 4th grade. As most of you probably know, Californian 4th graders are required to study California history. Knowing this, I took DIP Jr to Mission San Juan Capistrano the other week. I wound up learning just as much as he did on this trip.
Mission San Juan Capistrano is located in South Orange County, about a half hour drive south of Disneyland. It was founded on November 1, 1776 by Father Junipero Serra. It is the 7th in a chain of 21 missions in California.
Here is a model of the mission as it looked shortly after it was built. On the bottom right is the Great Stone Church. Accross from that to the left of the picture is the Soldier's Barracks, and the courtyard above that is bounded by the west, north, east, and south wings.
This is the first view you see as you enter the mission grounds. (This is mission is very popular with the tourists. Just like Disneyland it is impossible to get some good pictures without people getting in the way). The ruins of the Great Stone Church can be seen in the background.
Not to be outdone, the mission has their own version of character meet and greets. Here is someone dressed up like an old mission Padre from the mission days, or perhaps it is Father Serra. In the background is an olive millstone and the Soldier's Barracks behind that. By the way soldiers were required for protection. For the most part the Native Americans in this area were peaceful, but the mission was in fact raided by pirates looking for supposed treasure in the area.
Outside the Soldiers Barracks is a replica of a kiitcha. This is what the local Acjachemen Indians lived in. The missionaries changed their name from Acjachemen to the Juanenos though. The second picture shows the Acjachemen hunting for ducks. The mountain in the background is known to us locals as Saddleback Mountain. You can easily see this mountain from the top of the second lift hill of Screamin' or from the top of the Sun Wheel (when it is back up). I found this to be quite interesting, because who knows? Hundreds of years before Disneyland, there just might have been similar Native Americans near that very spot hunting for ducks in a similar manner.
This is pretty interesting. The area west of the west wing was excavated back in the 1930s and what was discovered was the Mission's industrial center. The picture here is what remains of the furnaces used to manufacture all of the metal objects used by the mission. In fact these are considered to be the first metal-forging furnaces in California. There were large holes in the ground used for tanning leather, and others were used for stomping on grapes to make wine. While Napa Valley may be world-renowned for its wine, the very first winery in the state of California was in fact at Mission San Juan Capistrano!
After this, we headed to the Great Stone Church, or what was left of it. Construction began in 1797 and was completed in 1806. It was destroyed by an earthquake during mass on the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1812. 42 people died, almost all Native Americans. The church was built by the missionaries (or more accurately it was built by the Acjachemen who did not receive any pay), but an archetect from Mexico City along with the missionaries supervised the construction. This archetect died, however, just after the sanctuary had been completed. By then the missionaries thought that they had learned enough to do the rest on their own which they did. Unfortunately, it turns out that they made the walls too thin to support the roof so when the earthquake struck, the church collapsed and the ceiling caved in. It is believed that the people who survived did so because they ran out of the church through the sanctuary -- this is the area that was built under the supervision of the archetect from Mexico City, and the roof in this area of the church in fact did not cave in. But those who ran toward the back perished -- it is believed mainly due to the falling stone and rubble blocking the exits. Today, the Great Stone Church lies in ruins and is considered by some to be the "Acropolis of this country." Here are some various pictures of the Great Stone Church.
To the north behind the Great Stone Church is the Mission Cemetery. It really isn't much to look at. What is amazing is that approximately 2,000 people, mostly Acjachemen Indians, were laid to rest in this area with unmarked graves.
The east wing of the mission lies next to this cemetery. Another important building here is the Serra Chapel. Constructed in 1782, this is the only original California Mission church still standing in which Father Serra is know to have celebrated mass. In the 1920s this chapel was restored and a beautiful 400 year old gold retablo was added. There is a side chapel dedicated to St. Peregrine which I didn't get any pictures of -- there were people in there praying so I didn't feel comfortable with that. St. Peregrine is the patron saint for those suffering from cancer. About 20 years ago the Catholic Church also anointed him as the patron saint for those suffering from AIDS. Here are a couple pictures taken of the Serra Chapel.
This was a very enjoyable trip, and one that I would highly recommend to those who would like something different to do during their vacation to Disneyland. It is amazing to see so much history only 30 minutes away from Disneyland, and it is all so beautiful.
Mission San Juan Capistrano is also well known because of the swallows that return to the mission every year in March, on St. Joseph's Day. Next month the annual Swallows Days Festivities will be held from march 19-22. If you are interested more information can be found at www.missionsjc.com. I hope you enjoyed the pictures and the commentary (which I hope wasn't too long). I leave you with more random pictures that I took. Enjoy!