Mission San Juan
Capistrano was founded on
November 1, 1776 by Father Junipero Serra. It was the 7th mission in
the 21 mission chain in Alta California. It was named for Saint John
of Capistrano, Italy, theologian. It is the only mission to have been
founded twice. Originally it was founded by Father Lasuen on October
30, 1775. Eight days after the founding the mission San Diego de
Alcala was under attack. The padres, soldiers and others returned to
San Diego . Before they left, Padre Lasuen buried the mission bells.
Father Serra returned to uncover the bells and once again begin the
mission at San Juan Capistrano.
The local Juaneno Indians
at Mission San
Juan Capistrano were friendly from the very beginning, helping to
build the mission buildings, chapel and church. The work of building
was done by the Indians. The Indians became skilled working in the
mission workshops. The Indians spun, wove, sewed, and carved wood.
They became good wagonmakers, blacksmiths, shoemakers, winemakers,
and olive-oil makers. They were good at making leather hides too.
The economy of the
missions were similar to
each other in that they planted crops of wheat and corn. They also
planted vineyards, and raised cattle and sheep. The agriculture was
needed not only to maintain the mission community and the nearby
Indians, but was used for trade and served to visitors to the
mission. The Mission was a success from the start. There was good
soil, climate and helpful Indians. Records show that in 1811 San Juan
Capistrano grew 500,000 pounds of wheat; 190,000 pounds of barley;
202,000 pounds of corn; 20,600 pounds of beans; 14,000 cattle; 16,000
sheep and 740 horses.
As the mission grew, its
people outgrew the
small chapel. In 1797, work began on what was to become the largest
church in the California Mission Chain. It was finished in 1806. In
December of 1812, while two Indians were ringing the mass bells, a
large earthquake hit the area and destroyed most of the church,
killing 40 Indians including the two boys who were ringing the bells.
They never rebuilt the church, instead choosing to continue using the
chapel for services. The quadrangle was built so big that it could
house all of the mission Indians. The small chapel is known as the
Father Serra Chapel of Father Serra's Church as that is the only
remaining building where it is certain that he said mass.
After Mexico won its
Spain, it found that it could no longer afford to keep the missions
running as Spain had done. In 1834, Mexico decided to end the mission
system and sell all of the lands. They offered the lands to the
Indians who did not want the lands or could not come up with the
purchase price. The lands were divided into smaller Ranchos and sold
to Mexican citizens who were helpful during the war for independence.
After nearly 30 years, the missions were returned to the Catholic
Church. Although some of the missions had already been returned to
the church, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed an Act
declaring that all of the 21 missions in the California mission chain
would become the property of the Catholic Church and have remained so
since that time. A copy of this is on display in the mission museum.
At this time there were 861 Indians living at the mission. They did
not want to stay at the mission and in 1845 the mission was sold to
governor Pio Pico's brother-in-law for $710,000.
The Mission San Juan
Capistrano was not kept
up during the years following secularization. By 1866, the mission
was rotting and near ruin. Several attempts were made to restore the
mission, but it wasn't until 1910 when Father John O'Sullivan came to
the mission that it was completely restored and rebuilt. In 1918,
Father O'Sullivan was given permission to make the mission into an
active church once again. The following priests at the mission have
continued to restore and maintain the mission.
Today, the mission is an
active parish that
continues to serve the people of the City of San Juan Capistrano. The
mission and the grounds have been wonderfully restored, with a
complete quadrangle. In some of the rooms at the mission are museums
and displays from the mission period. Visitors are welcomed at the
mission. One of the most popular events is the return of the swallows
each March 19th. These birds fly south for the winter on October 23rd
and return on March 19th every year like clockwork. Crowds of people
come to greet them each year. The restoration and loving care given
to Mission San Juan Capistrano has helped it to be known as "Jewel of
disabled. Get Netscape 3.0
or turn it on!
2. Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded....?
3. What happens every March 19th at the San Juan
return to the mission
4. Who was in charge of rebuilding the Mission in
5. Who did the actual building of the missions?
6. What happened to the missions in 1834?
Indians took over
7. San Juan Capistrano is the only mission...?
been completely rebuilt
been founded twice
8. What is the chapel at Mission San Juan
destroyed in an earthquake
that killed 40 Indians
built my Mexican soldiers, not
the only standing building in
which Father Serra is known to have said mass
the largest chapel in the
9. What happened in 1812?
burned the mission
were taken over by Mexican
earthquake destroyed the main
10. What did Abraham Lincoln agree to in 1863?
return the Mission lands to
President of the United
the San Antonio de Padua
the Indians to leave the
Mission Internet Trail
Spanish Missions of California
Mission San Juan Capistrano - Lots
of information on Mission San Juan Capistrano. Basically, all the
flyers/brochures/handouts from the Mission SJC are typed up and
available on the web here.
This project written by Rob
partial fulfilment of
of Arts Degree
from Cal Poly
Please send questions
and/or comments to
This page last updated on July 15, 2010