Sunday, April 1, 2012

M is for Mission San Juan Capistrano

Last Saturday, I went on a photo safari with a friend I met through the photography website "How to Photograph your Baby." We discovered,  that we lived two hours apart, so decided to meet at the halfway point; each driving about an hour north or south. Jolyne suggested meeting at the Mission San Juan Capistrano, as it is seemed to be located at midpoint.

 This church played a major role in early California history and  is the seventh of twenty-one Spanish missions along the coast- beginning in San Diego and ending in San Francisco. When I was a child, learning about the missions was part of the 4th grade curriculum- and I believe it still is! This particular weekend just happened to be the city-wide celebration of the legendary return of the cliff swallows to the mission, and man, was it ever bustling with activity!

Just getting to the site proved an impossible mission due to the snarl of traffic coming into the city for the Swallows Day parade. We were fortunate to find parking within a short walk to the mission. 
We situated ourselves on the curb in front of the entrance and watched the beginning of the parade.
  Jolyne wisely recommended we go into the mission before the parade ended or else the crowd would be too thick to photograph the site. Smart move! That parade continued on outside the mission gates and seemed to have lasted  2 hours. 

It was a beautiful campus- well cared for and the old stone ruins stood  strong, yet mute with their stories of old- when in 1776, Father Junipero Serra began the church and a long line of Catholic priests ran the place.        


The "Great Stone Church" was built between 1797 and 1806. It measured 180 feet in length and 40 feet in width, It had high a vaulted ceiling that held seven domes and a 120 foot tall bell tower.
According to the website,California Missions  Resource Center, a massive earthquake in  1812 destroyed the great stone church. The 4 bells survived the quake. v=szxU8nNUMTM&lr=1&user=missionsjc

I was drawn in by the bells and thus took several photos, It was not till researching the history for this blog that I came across the video of their ringing. Oh what a thrill it would have been to hear this in person! They continue to be rung for special occasions.

 The new chapel was built  and named Serra's Chapel. The alter is made of cherry wood and covered with gold leaf. You can't see the beauty from the photo, but the piece  is adorned with fifty-two angels faces- one for each Sunday in the year. It originated in Barcelona Spain and is over three hundred years old.

I did not see any swallows, but did see the nests. Here is a link to a video story as to why the swallows are such an important part of the mission's history.

We left the mission to have lunch at a nearby restaurant. There was also a street fair going on, but by late afternoon, we were tired and ready to part ways.
I had a great time, and it was fun meeting Jolyne face to face for the first time. I felt very comfortable with her and she took some awesome photos! I learned much from her as she's been into photography for many years, whereas, I'm just starting out. I look forward to the next time we get together for a photo safari!


  1. LOVED visiting Capistrano when I lived out that way. Beautiful. Thanks for the reminder!

    1. Thanks Joanne! I know I went there as a kid, but did not remember anything.

  2. So cool, Barb!! Love those bells!! Amazing how old that place is! Wow!

  3. Very interesting! I love poking around old places and learning new things about them.

  4. loved visiting through your photography. thanks for taking us along!

  5. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

  6. What a beautiful place! Your pictures seem to convey a sense of peace that must be in that place!

    1. It was peaceful- in spite of the parade and music going on!


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