Mission San Juan Bautista, California


Mission San Juan Bautista

After exploring and getting lost in Hollister Deelow and I finally decided we should move on to the next town of San Juan Bautista. It was different from all the towns we’ve been to because this one was preserved as if we were in Spanish California. We drove to our destination and passed by the Mission San Juan Bautista and parked a couple of blocks from the mission. As we walked, we saw several historic houses and as we walk here is an introduction to the history of the mission.

Historical Marker

“Founded on June 24, 1797 by Fermín Lasuénof the Franciscan order, the mission was the fifteenth of the Spanish missions established in present-day California. Named for Saint John the Baptist, the mission is the namesake of the city of San Juan Bautista. In June, 1803, the cornerstone was laid for the present church. With three naves or aisles, it became the widest of all the mission churches. It was dedicated on June 23, 1812. Padre Esteban Tapis is buried in the sanctuary of the church. He was, at one time, Presidente of the Missions and he is the founder of the Mission Santa Ines. When he retired from office he came to San Juan Bautista where his musical talents brought fame and a new name to San Juan, “THE MISSION OF MUSIC.” Two of his handwritten choir books can be seen in the Museum”

“Interior completion of the church continued through 1817 when the floor was tiled and the main altar and reredos (which holds the six statues) were completed by Thomas Doak, an American sailor who jumped ship in Monterey. He painted the reredos in exchange for room and board.

Camino Real Marker

The present museum rooms were the padre’s living quarters and the work areas for the Native Americans. Over the years the rooms were used for storage and for Mass after the 1906 earthquake.

The gardens were the center of activity. Here were learned the skills of carpentry, tanning, weaving, and candlemaking.

The present Gift Shop was a storeroom. In 1847, it was a temporary home for the Breen family who survived the Donner Party tragedy. Their family Bible is in the Museum.”

download (3)
Vintage Mission San Juan Bautista

We left the gift shop and walked to the main church and to our dismay the doors were closed. (We would learn later that in order to get into the church we have to go through the museum). There was a statue of St. John the Baptist in front of the church, reaching upwards to the heavens. We peeked to the cemetery at the side of the church then walked along the edge of the hill. The scene was breathtaking; the mission was on top of the hill overlooking the fields and grasslands.

“The San Andreas Fault runs along the base of the hill below the cemetery. In 1906, there was a violent earthquake that shook the greater part of central California. The side walls of the church collapsed. They were restored in 1976. Vestiges of the original El Camino Real can still be seen north of the cemetery.

Camino Real Marker

The “convento” wing is all that remains of the quadrangle that had enclosed the gardens. The kitchen served 1,200 people three times a day. The mission’s collection of books and art works are in many cases older than the mission. Some of the fine vestments in the museum are from China, Russia and Venice, and were used at the mission as recently as the 1930’s.

The cemetery on the north side of the church contains the remains of over 4,000 Christian Native Americans and Europeans. Ascencion Solorzano, the last pure-blooded Native American of this mission, is buried in the cemetery. Her grave is marked by a red cross and a plaque has been placed on the wall above her grave in her memory.”

Across the mission were several old buildings, we assumed it was part of the historical landmarks in town. The strange part was the buildings looked to be out of place because they were at the mission grounds, but I guess that during those days it was the main plaza or square. As we finished our exploration of the mission here is the rest of history.

The church was secularized in 1835, when much of the mission property was seized by the Mexican government. In 1895, the present mission buildings and 55 acres were given back to the Church by Federal decree of the United States government. San Juan Bautista has the only original Spanish Plaza remaining in California.

The Mission

The Old Mission San Juan Bautista has had an unbroken succession of pastors since its founding on June 24,1797.

As part of the bicentennial celebrations, the original chapel (Guadalupe Chapel) has been restored along with the restoration of the actual mission well. “


Another thing that reminds me of this particular mission is its role in the movie of Alfred Hitchcock’s film Vertigo.  In the beginning, Hitchcock wanted to film the scene in Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo in Carmel, but Herbert Coleman’s daughter Judy gave him the idea to look into Mission San Juan Bautista. She suggested it because its location was quieter and bigger space for filming.

When Hitchcock first visited the Mission it had the bell tower, but unfortunately, it was taken down in 1949 because of the storm damage and dry rotting. A new bell tower won’t be built until 1976.

Inside the bell tower

The bell tower was crucial for the film and back in 1958 there was no tower in the mission. To make up for this the bell tower was added using special effects, as seen from the photo above. While the interior of the tower was recreated in the studios and film there. So that is for a bit of movie trivia.

We didn’t leave the area instead focused on the other buildings around the mission.

Here are the links for more information:



2009-04-14 (2)
Say Cheez!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s