Great Stone Church, San Juan Capistrano

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26801 Ortega Hwy, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675 (949) 234-1300

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    The Great Stone Church Ruins

    by lmkluque Updated Feb 20, 2012

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    The ruins known as the Great Stone Church is one of the most interesting sections of SJC Mission. This is also the section that the swallows retrun to mostly.

    The church was laid out as a cross shape with a bell tower that, it is said, could be seen for ten miles away and the sound of the bells carried even further.This church lasted only six years and in 1812 was destroyed by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake killing over fifty people. They are buried in the old church cemetary.

    Efforts have been made to stablize the Great Stone Church and to keep it as the most notable part of the Mission. The four bells seen at the ruins mark the location of the original bell tower that collapsed in the earthquake.

    Bells recasted from old cracked bells. The Great Stone Church Ruins
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    The Gardens of San Juan Capistrano

    by Yaqui Updated Nov 14, 2010

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    The gardens are among the whole mission and are so lovely. Please take the time to appreciate the time and effort that comes from lots of volunteers who contribute so much of their time to share the beauty of the Mission.

    Open Daily: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
    Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
    Closed at noon Good Friday and Christmas Eve.

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    ASM International Marker

    by Yaqui Written Nov 14, 2010

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    This plaque is located in the Industrial Center towards the back. The plaque reads:

    Metalworking Furnaces
    Mission San Juan Capistrano
    has been designated an Historical Landmark by ASM International

    The two furnaces at this site, circa 1790's are the oldest exiting metalworking structures in California. They were used for the production of wrought iron, thereby introducing the natives living here to the Metal Age. Previously, only skills in stone, wood, bone and shell were known. ~1988

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    Gaspar De Portola Statue

    by Yaqui Written Nov 14, 2010

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    Located toward the back of the entrance courtyard and the plaque reads:

    Gaspar De Portola
    Born - Balaguer, Spain - 1723
    Buried - Lerido, Spain - 1786
    In concert with Mission San Juan Capistrano, El Viaje de Portola pays tribute to its inspiration and namesake, Gaspar de Portola, first Governor of the Californias and Commander of the first overland expedition into this wilderness. Won by Cross, Saddle and Sword, the opening of Alta California led to the founding of this mission settlement and civilization.

    Two Centuries later, Portola's ride has been perpetuated owing to the determination of eight horsemen, "Los Fundadores" Bud Curtis, Ken Oliphant, Bill Riffle, Fulton Shaw, Bill Shattuck, Bill Votaw, Charley Wheeler, Dud Wright and the sustaining drive of Tony Moiso, known as Big "81/2." Today, 200 trail-mates join them annually in keeping alive the spirit of California's first pathfinder.

    To Commemorate Don Gaspar's exploits and passing, and to honor its own riders who have topped the last ridge," El Viaje respectfully dedicates this sanctuary henceforth to be known as

    "Plaza Del Viaje De Portola"
    Done this 30th day of March, 1995
    on the 32nd Trek of El Viaje VP de Portola.

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    Commemorative Plaque Of a President Visit

    by Yaqui Updated Nov 14, 2010

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    As you can see it is located on the bell tower brick wall and it reads:

    To Commemorate the visit of the President of the United States Mr. Richard M. Nixon and Mrs. Richard M. Nixon to this Old Mission of San Juan Capistrano
    March 22, 1969
    When they rang this bell of San Rafael Cast in 1804.

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    Orange County Historic Civil Engineering Landmark

    by Yaqui Written Nov 14, 2010

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    Located just within the front entrance courtyard is located this marker:

    Orange County Historic Civil Engineering Landmark
    The Mission of San Juan Capistrano
    {American Society of Civil Engineers Founded 1852}
    Initial Construction 1778 to 1782
    Designated 1992 by Orange County Branch.

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    Saint John Capistran Marker

    by Yaqui Written Nov 14, 2010

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    The marker reads and is located on the walls of the Mission:

    Born 1386 as Giovanni Chiori in Capistrano, Italy, distinguished himself as a judge in Naples. Later he entered the Franciscan order. A brilliant orator, his sermons attracted great throngs all over Europe when Sultan Mohamed II, leading his invincible forces westward, threatened to abolish christendom, Friar Capistran recruited volunteers, the Fort of Nandor-Feher-Var (now Belgrade)was guarded by Hungary's Greatest Strategist.

    John Corvinus Hunyadi with only token troops, Capistran rushed with his ragged band of students and poor to aid the besieged, and together they miraculously routed the largest best equipped army of that age, Pope Calixtus ordered all church bells to ring out daily and ever since.

    The Noon Angelus commemorates this event...until the recent communist takeover Capistran was honored as Patron of Hungary's Defenders. The Budapest Saint's Feast Day, October 23, 1956 - 500 Years AFter His Victory Over the Infidels.

    Presented by the custody of St. John Capistran of The American Hungarian Franciscan Friars.

    This reminder was blessed by Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty.

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    San Juan Capistrano California Landmark #200

    by Yaqui Updated Nov 14, 2010

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    The marker reads:
    NO. 200 MISSION SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO - Founded in 1776 by Padre Junípero Serra, this is the seventh in the chain of 21 missions established in Alta California to christianize and civilize the Indians. The stone church was destroyed in 1812 earthquake. Expropriated during Mexican rule, the mission was returned to the Catholic church in 1865 by proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln.

    Listed on the National Register of Historic Places: NPS-71000170

    The other historical marker reads:
    Historic Site
    Mission San Juan Capistrano
    "Jewel of the Missions" founded on November 1, 1776 by Father Junipero Serra, most renown and most beautiful of the California Missions. Quaint little Serra Chapel is California's oldest building still in use. The magnificent ruins of the Great Stone Church are considered the "American Acropolis".

    Open Daily: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
    Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
    Closed at noon Good Friday and Christmas Eve.

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    San Juan Capistrano Historic Downtown

    by Yaqui Updated Nov 14, 2010

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    This area has a very extensive historical area that dates back to the time of the Mission era. One of oldest areas is the Los Rios Historical District that dates from Spanish era to Statehood. There are 31 historical structures which lie along Los Rios Street, Del Obispo and Mission Streets. There are at least three adobe homes that date back to 1794 and others date from 1887 to 1910. Check out the map that is a PDF file and take a stroll through history and maybe do some shopping too.

    The one photo below is the Garcia Adobe which is the only two story adobe in SJC. The exterior walls are over three feet thick. The second floor was added around 1880 and a Monterey style balcony was added.

    Garcia Adobe 1880
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    The Serra Chapel

    by Yaqui Updated Nov 14, 2010

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    It was built in 1788 to replace the Great Stone Church that collapsed in 1812 from an earthquake. It is the oldest church in California that is still in service. When Father O'Sullivan came to the rescue of the missions, he had this restored in 1910-1933. The gorgeous Baroque altar is from Barcelona Spain and is made of hand carved wood with a a gold lear overlay. It is estimated to be over 400 years old. The side chapel is dedicated to S. Peregrine, a patron saint of sufferers. Near the entry is the original baptismal font that once stood in the Great Stone Church.

    Open Daily: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
    Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
    Closed at noon Good Friday and Christmas Eve.

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    Picnic Area

    by Yaqui Updated Nov 14, 2010

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    This area is used for lots of wonderful educational programs the Mission has for its school children. Such neat programs:

    ALWAYS AT THE MISSION
    FREE with Paid Admission
    Award Winning Audio Tour
    Digital audio tour in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian and Vietnamese
    Audio Tour for Children
    Available in English and Spanish for $2 per child
    California Missions Resource Studio
    Open Daily • 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
    Curiosity Carts
    Tuesdays • 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
    Garden Tours
    Wednesdays • 10:15 a.m. and at 10:45 a.m.
    Indian Basket Weaving
    Wednesdays (1st & 3rd of each month) • 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
    Living History Day
    Second Saturday each month • 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
    Pan for Gold
    Saturdays • 12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.
    Weekend Guided Tours
    Saturdays & Sundays • 11:15, 1:00, 2:15 & 3:45 p.m.*

    Please check with the mission.

    Open Daily: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
    Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
    Closed at noon Good Friday and Christmas Eve.

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    Central Courtyard

    by Yaqui Updated Nov 14, 2010

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    This was known as the Plaza and was the central area of the missions activities. Three water channels ran through the mission grounds and under the west wing into the Industrial Area. Fr. O'Sullivan built the Morrish style fountain and dedicated to the Four Evangelist, and planted most of the trees in the 1920's. This is a favorite place the Mission has special events such as concerts and weddings receptions.

    Open Daily: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
    Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
    Closed at noon Good Friday and Christmas Eve.

    This Koi in the front
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    Mission Cemetery

    by Yaqui Updated Nov 14, 2010

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    This was the original cemetery for the mission. With over 2,000 people are buried here and most of those are in unmarked graves. Most where Native Americans. It started when those 40 faithful where kills during the 1812 Earthquake that collapsed the Great Stone Church. Located on one of the gates to the cemetery is this wonderful informational plaque. It reads:

    According to Father Zephyrin Englehardt, a renowned Franciscan historian who assisted at Mission San Juan Capistrano at various times during the 1910s and 1020s:

    “The burial register of Mission San Juan Capistrano is, replete with interesting data, but we must restrict ourselves to what follows.

    The title page (of the burial register) was drewn up by Father Junipero Serra and but for the word difuntos, the test is like that of the two other books (baptisms and marriages). It has 294 folios for use, as Father Serra remarks, not counting the first and last folio which were to remain blank. It was signed on December 2, 1776 at this Mission, which is evidence that Father Serra passed a month at San Juan Capistrano after its founding.”

    According to Father Engelhardt, the first entry records the death and burial of Sinforosa. The ceremonies were performed by Father Pablo Mugartegui, on July 13, 1777, more than seven months after the founding of the Mission.”

    The mortality at the Mission was very small for the first year, at the close of 1777 only 3 burials had taken place. By the end of the 1788, as many as 201 had been made, nearly one fourth the number of baptisms administered till then.

    Further according to Father Engelhardt, “In the beginning of the year 1806 Father Santiago notes that an epidemic of measles broke out at the Mission. It was the first time since the founding of Mission. The disease was unknown to the Native Americans, but they soon learned that for them it is a veritable plague, hardly less disastrous than the small pox.”

    “At SJC large number of neophytes were carried off during January and February. At the end of the year 1805 the Burial Register contained 1,234 entries. At the end of February, 1806, only two months later, the entries had increased to 1, 367. Accordingly, within this brief space of time 133 deaths occurred. Not all were interred in the cemetery to the rear of the Stone Church. Many died at a distance from the Mission and received burial near their homes. The Fathers, of course, endeavored to reach all of whose illness they received notice.”

    Englehardt, scholars today know that, Fr, Zalvidea made his last entry in the death Register on July 29, 1842. It is number 3,413 and the last for more than four years; for Father Oliva entered the next number 3,414 on October 3, 1846. It is not likely that these years passed without a death at the Mission. (Keep in mind this is the time frame of secularization and private ownership of the Mission by the Forster family.) Probably laymen performed the burials, recited the ordinary prayers, and subsequently forgot to report the death to Father Oliva. The latter most probably blessed the graves in the cemetery when he was informed of the previous burials; but he omitted noting the fact when no names were forthcoming. As the Baptismal Register contains only thirty entries for these four years, made by priests who occasionally visited the place, one may guess the utter abandonment of the once lively Mission.

    Father Engelhardt wrote, “It must be noted here that Father Zalvidea by mistake numbered his last burial entry 4,031 instead of 3,413. The priest who succeeded him, continued this erroneous numbering. The beginning of 1848 brought still deeper gloom to the Mission. The last resident Franciscan died at SJC on January 2, 1848.” Englehardt, O.F.M., Rev. Zephyrin, SJC, The Jewel of the Mission, Los Angels, 1922, PP.195-200.

    There were several surveys conducted to estimated the correct boundaries of the cemetery and Old Mission, but the most important was prepared in 1860 by Henry Hancock for the U.S. Survey General as part of Bishop Joseph S. Alemany’s claim for the return of the Californian Missions property to the Catholic Church. This is reproduced in the Patent of Title signed by President Lincoln and is preserved in the archives a the Mission. A certified copy from the Department of the Interior has also been obtained. The survey is reproduced in Mission San Juan Capistrano, The Fall and Rise of a California Mission, Krekelberg.

    MSGR. St. John O'Sullivan 1874-1904
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    North Corridor

    by Yaqui Updated Nov 14, 2010

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    This was where the warehouse that stored the grains, woolens, hides, and tallow. It had to be reconstructed that was supervised by Fr O'Sullivan in the 1920's. It served as the first mission school and convent for teaching the sisters.

    Open Daily: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
    Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
    Closed at noon Good Friday and Christmas Eve.

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    The Leon Rene Music Room

    by Yaqui Updated Nov 14, 2010

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    This was neat to learn and see the actual sheet music signed by Leon Rene and the piano he used to play when he composed in 1939 "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano". It's in a room, but with a glass door so you can see in.

    Open Daily: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
    Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
    Closed at noon Good Friday and Christmas Eve.

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