Mission San Juan Capistrano, California

Steven Dutch, Professor Emeritus, Natural and Applied Sciences, Universityof Wisconsin - Green Bay

Best known for its swallows, said to return every St. Joseph's Day (March 19), San Juan Capistrano is one of the larger preserved missions and one of the most attractive. It was founded in 1775, briefly abandoned due to Indian unrest at San Diego, then re-established in 1776.
San Juan Capistrano had nothing to do with Spain. He was an Italian jurist turned cleric who raised a corps of volunteers to fight the advancing Turks in the Balkans. They reinforced a small Hungarian army and won a surprising victory over a much larger Turkish force.
The great stone church is one of the more graphic physical reminders of California's earthquake history. A major earthquake in 1812 destroyed the church and killed more than forty people who were at Mass.
A common marker marks the burial site of an estimated 2500 Indians who lived at the Mission.
Father Serra's Church

This is the original Mission Church, oldest building in California, the only standing church where Father Serra said Mass.

The 300 year old Baroque Altar is from Spain.

Swallow nests. Of course. The swallows actually straggle in but generally show up in large numbers in March.
The old-fashioned Cyrillic letters read "Rossiskaya Amerikanskaya Kompaniya," or Russian American Company. This was Russia's version of the Hudson's Bay or East India Company, a state sponsored exploration and trading company.

The Russians founded Fort Ross, about a hundred miles north of San Francisco, in 1812. The Russian presence in the Americas, though thin, was one motivation for extending missions north into California.


Return to Virtual FieldTrips Index
Return to Historic Sites Index
Return to Professor Dutch's Home Page

Created 28 March 2007, Last Update 04 June 2020