Mission San Juan Capistrano

Between 1769 and 1833, Catholic priests of the Franciscan order established 21 Spanish missions in California.
Mission San Diego de Alcalá was the first, founded in 1769. The Mission featured in this post, San Juan Capistrano, was seventh, founded in 1776.

Looking down a typical exterior corridor

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Mission Architecture

The typical mission architecture still influences civic and residential buildings in California and the Southwest. Structures that exhibiting the tile roofs, arched door and window openings, and stuccoed walls, all have some of that “mission look.”
The Mission Revival Style was an architectural movement that began in the late 19th century for a colonial style’s revivalism and reinterpretation, which drew inspiration from the late 18th and early 19th century Spanish missions in California.
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Mission San Juan Capistrano

Mission San Juan Capistrano
Mission San Juan Capistrano

Founded on All Saints’ Day November 1, 1776 and named for Giovanni da Capistrano, a 15th-century theologian and “warrior priest”, who resided in the Abruzzo region of Italy.

Serra’s Chapel

California’s oldest building (built in 1782) still in use, is located in the Mission San Juan Capistrano: Serra Chapel.
Mission San Juan Capistrano is one of the nine missions Father Junipero Serra founded. Father Serra celebrated mass in the Mission’s newly built adobe church in 1783, just a year before he died. Mission San Juan Capistrano remains the only California Mission church that has survived, in which Father Serra celebrated Mass.

Serra Chapel
Serra Chapel

Mission Bells

Bells were vitally important to daily life at any mission. The bells were rung at mealtimes, to call the Mission residents to work and to religious services.
What became of the original bells is unknown. New bells were cast in Chile for inclusion in the belfry of “The Great Stone Church.”
In the aftermath of the 1812 earthquake, the two largest bells cracked and split open, not producing clear tones anmore.

Mission San Juan Capistrano
Mission San Juan Capistrano

Mission Folklore

The Ghost Hunters crew focused on claims of sightings of “Magdalena,” a young woman who perished while in the Great Stone Church during the 1812 earthquake.
Ghost Hunters Season 9 Eps.2 2013 – On this episode of Ghost Hunters, TAPS travels to San Juan Capistrano, California to investigate the Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Magdalena was about 15 or 16 years old, young and beautiful. She fell in love with a young man named Teofilo. He was a promising artist who painted the wall frescos inside the newly built Great Stone Church. Magdalena’s father, was a soldier and he forbid her to see Teofilo because he was not of the same social standing.
Although forbidden to see each other, Magdalena managed to slip away and meet Teofilo secretly. One day they were caught by her father. Magdalena was severely punished. Her father required her to confess to the priest. As part of her punishment, she was to walk in front of the congregation holding a penitents candle. The day she was to do this was December 8th, 1812*. At the early morning mass she went inside the Great Stone Church and lit her candle. As she carried the candle up the aisle toward the priest to say her penance, the earth began to shake. A large earthquake struck. It is estimated that it was a 6.9 magnitude earthquake. The bell tower swayed and fell on top of the church. People screamed trying to make it toward the door, but unfortunately, the door was jammed. Forty people were buried alive under the rubble. It took months for the rubble to be cleared and the bodies to be buried. Among the dead was a young girl, Magdalena, with a candle still in her hand.

It is said that on a night of a half-moon one can see her face in the remaining window of the Great Stone Church, still doing penance for her forbidden love.