Wednesday, October 20, 2010

San Juan Capistrano

The mission at San Juan Capistrano is the 7th and perhaps the best known of the 21 California missions founded by Father Junipero Serra in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

But the mission is probably most famous because of the cliff swallows that return here each year on March 19 after a 30-day, 6,000-mile journey from their winter home in Argentina.

Called "The Jewel of the Missions," San Juan Capistrano was the largest and most ornate of the missions. It was built in the shape of a cross, with many domes and a large bell tower.

Unfortunately, in 1812, only 6 years after its completion, it was all but leveled by an earthquake.

Restoration efforts have failed, and the ruins are now maintained just as they are.

Metal covers the top of the walls to protect them from further decay.

The grounds are also the site of California's first vineyard! Just look what they started...

The chapel in another building is still in use, and is considered the oldest church in California. It was built in 1782 and enlarged in 1922 to make room for the "Golden Altar."

The "Retablo" was made in Barcelona, and is handcarved of 396 pieces of cherry wood and overlaid in gold leaf. It is estimated to be 400 years old, but was not installed here until 1923.

The mission is also know for its beautiful flowers, including these water lilies in a Moorish style fountain in the central courtyard.

Some large, friendly koi also enjoyed the fountain.

And I loved the variegated lily pads.

Outside the mission grounds and just down the street is the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano, built in 1984 and patterned after the old stone mission.

It also has a retablo behind the altar, this one carved in cedar and covered in gold leaf. It is 42 feet high and was created by 84 artists in Madrid, Spain.

The handpainted walls are very unusual.

And the paintings of the apostles are strangely different from any other religious paintings I have seen.


  1. So where are the pictures of the swallows? Ha Ha :)

  2. I did actually see a couple swallows, but they were way too fast for me! They are scheduled to depart on Oct 23.

  3. Incredible pictures are the norm for you. I've said it before and I'll say it again, you have an amazing eye for incredible pictures.

    Loved your descriptions, too. Were you a teacher in your working life? You sure know how to get and keep my attention!

  4. Another place we have missed and need to see.

    Very interesting history-Thanks.

  5. The last picture looks like he's holding the world's earliest rifle.

  6. I've been reading your blog for some time. I enjoy it.
    I'm from that area. Where could you park or leave a rv unattended to visit San Juan? Up Hwy 74?

  7. Didn't make it to the mission the last time we were there, so I appreciate the virtual visit. I especially like the wall paintings from the second mission you visited.

  8. Fantastic Pictures! Would you do a blog post telling us just how and why you came to be doing what you are doing again?

  9. beautiful pictures, I dont think I have ever seen a lily pad that color, that is gorgeous and I loved the water lilys, thanks for sharing :o)

  10. I loved the great photos of the church(es) and the grounds. Thanks.

  11. Beautiful photos! I love the water lilies with the backdrop of the buildings.

    I remember touring the missions as a child while on vacation if they were nearby. There are two in San Diego that I've visited. Amazing history lessons. That might be a goal I can achieve when I start RVing - follow Father Serra's route. I'll put that one in my "to do" list!

    BTW, I didn't buy anything at the RV show either, although I was willing to part with some $$$. I thought there might be SOMETHING I could buy to save for my future RV, but sadly, no.

  12. This looks like a beautiful and peaceful spot. I love the lilies and the lily pads, the colour is wonderful.

    Kevin and Ruth

  13. Aewsome!! You took some exceptional photos today!! I love the old mission ruins its perfect as is and that alter is WOW--
    Awesome Koi and Lily pad photos too--wonderful post!!!
    Im catching up on your posts, dont want to miss anything!!


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