, , ,

On a gorgeous Sunday afternoon a few weeks past, we visited San Juan Bautista Mission. San Juan Bautista Mission, the 15th of the 21 missions in California founded on June 24, 1797, on the feast day of St. John the Baptist by Fr. Fermin Lausén, successor to Fr. Serra. It is said that San Juan Bautista mission is the largest among the 21 missions with 19 arches across the front of its 230 feet cloister, or convento. San Juan Bautista mission has many interesting facts: 1) It claims to “have served mass every day since 1797”, 2) Remarkably, the San Andreas Fault “runs along the base of the hill below the cemetery”  and 3) Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” was filmed on the Mission grounds. The purpose of the mission was to propagate religion and for Spain to stake its claim on Alta, California.

The campanaria, or bell tower in the distance, holds 2 of the 3 original bells. The purpose of the bells was to regulate daily activities for prayers, meals and work. Just below this white picket fence is the original El Camino Real, or the King’s Highway. This was the route Fr. Serra took visiting between missions. At the present time, the valley below still functions as a farm as it did some 200-years ago.

These rooms were once the priests living quarters and the natives’ workrooms. Now a museum, daily items indespnisable to the natives are preserved here giving us a glimpse of the past. The vestments above were worn by priests during mass services. When I first stepped into these rooms, the floors creaked from beneath me and I imagined the thousands of people who’ve walked on these floor during Fr. Lausen’s time, and the thousands more who pay visit here yearly. 

This is the inside of the church. The ceiling and wall frescoes was repainted in the Indian-style to match the reredos. San Juan Bautista Mission is the only mission with three wide naves. Notice the pulpit on the left jutting from the wall? That is an original structure, common in mission churches. Thomas Doak, a sailor from New England, painted the altar and reredos in exchange for room and board. The reredos has six niches holding six statues. The center of the bottom niche is the statue of Saint John the Baptist, patron saint.

Stepping out to the garden, greeting us was a cacophonous sound of Gregorian music filling the air, and birds of flight competing with the children’s noise to the faint and indistinct sermon of the priest inside the church. 200 hundred years ago, this garden was the center of activity. The Mutsune Indians learned skills in “carpentry, tanning, weaving, and candle making” from the Spaniards. The arches above are the Stations of the Cross. Each arch represents two of  the Stations.  

According to the brochure handed out to us, “San Juan Bautista has the only original Spanish Plaza remaining in California”. The above pictures, Plaza Hall, Plaza Hotel and Plaza Stable makes up the Spanish Plaza, inlcuding the grassy green in the center.


To transport guests staying at the Plaza Hotel, these carriages were the means of transportation.

This is the back garden of the Plaza Hall.

Used by settlers in the mid-1800s, this cabin, located across from the mission, has a bed on one side of the wall, a square kitchen table with chairs, a stone hearth and other kitchen essentials. This area is now a well kept park with picnic benches. Chickens and roosters find shelter here from the likes of my M, who cannot possibly leave them alone.

*Reference: San Juan Bautista Mission brochure and The Missions: California’s Heritage, Mission San Juan Bautista by Mary Null Boulé