Last week I visited the San Juan Capistrano Mission and came away with quite a few photos, but no swallow stories - probably because we were about two weeks late. When we arrived the mission was filled with school children on a field trip, but they quickly cleared out after lunch, leaving the grown ups to play.
The mission's history goes back to a year before America's independence from England. Although he didn't first establish the mission site, Saint Junipero Serra is generally associated with bootstrapping the mission in 1776, shortly after helping to settle a revolt in San Diego. You still see many signs of him on the church ground, including the statue above. Interestingly enough, the first photo below has a historical description of the architecture and features that are still original to the church from his time. Unfortunately the great stone church was destroyed in an earthquake in 1812 and only the ruins remain.
During the first half of the 1800's the mission's lands had been pieced off and sold by the Mexican government. Governor Pio Pico even sold the mission itself to John Forster, his brother in law, and it became a private ranch. After the Mexican-American War and California's newfound statehood in 1850 many people petitioned the U.S. government to return the mission to the church. Father John O'Sullivan along with Charles Lummis, are largely credited with restoring the mission after it was returned by President Abraham Lincoln.
The preservation staff does a wonderful job of maintaining the gardens. From a picture taking point of view, the only issue I had was that they had strings of lights out in the inner courtyard for an event that evening. It's amazing that all these architectural features still stand today. I doubt my house will last as long.
Just walking the ground you'll notice a huge difference in temperature between the shade and covered hallways. It makes me wonder how they dealt with Southern California heat back in the earlier days of the mission. Food had to be prepared outside in brick kilns! Those cooks were tough. Wine was made by squashing grapes with dirty, smelly feet. I didn't see a single shower or bath tub on the site. Although they did have a trough for running water through the courtyard.
The history placards indicated that over 2000 people were baptized in the cauldron shown below. I assume that many of those baptized were natives, whom the Spanish catholic priests converted. The natives that chose to be converted were taught Spanish and weren't allowed to leave the mission grounds without permission.
One interesting artifact they have on display is a painting of Mary Pickford getting married at the mission, which isn't quite the full story. At a friend's wedding she and husband Owen Moore decided to renew their vows with Father John O'Sullivan presiding. Another fun fact is that the Spanish shawls that were so prized by the senoras at the mission were actually made in China or the Philippines. Even back then the most stylish clothes were made in the far east.
...and finally, the gardens. Flowers are currently in bloom after a few months of rain in Southern California. We were lucky enough to be there at the right time.