Mission San Juan Capistrano, California
Two weeks ago, when my family was visiting in Los Angeles, we wanted to get together with my brother, who lives in San Diego. We decided to meet half-way, at the beach in San Clemente, followed by lunch nearby in San Juan Capistrano and a visit to the Mission.
San Clemente Beach and Pier
We arrived at San Clemente at mid-morning and after parking our car in the lot just above the pier, followed the path along the beach and picked out a spot to spread our towels. It was a weekday, and the beach was not crowded despite the warm weather. The tide was out and the waves just the right size for boogie boarding. I got my feet wet as I walked along the sand, but the ocean in California is always too cold for me. I never swim–I leave that to younger family members. By the time we left for lunch, the morning fog had lifted and it was a bright, sunny day.
The Amtrak station at San Clemente is right at the beach.
After a tasty lunch at Ciao Pasta restaurant in San Juan Capistrano, we crossed the street to visit the Mission, taking the self-guided audio tour with the audio wands.
Lily pond in the mission courtyard
Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded twice, once in 1775, then abandoned and refounded in 1776. Mission San Juan Capistrano became the seventh of twenty-one missions to be founded in Alta California. Like the previous six missions, San Juan Capistrano was established to expand the territorial boundaries of Spain, and to spread Christianity to the Native peoples of California. For more about the history of this mission, click HERE.
Swallow nests, built of mud on the mission walls
For many people, the first thing they think of in connection with Mission San Juan Capistrano, is the swallows, which, according to tradition arrive on the first day of spring, or St. Josephs Day, and build their nests under the eaves of the mission buildings. On our visit, in August, we saw the empty nests but no swallows.
Statue of Father Junipero Serra outside the mission chapel. Saint Junípero Serra y Ferrer, O.F.M., was a Roman Catholic Spanish priest and friar of the Franciscan Order who founded a mission in Baja California and the first nine of 21 Spanish missions in California from San Diego to San Francisco, in what was then Alta California in the Province of Las Californias, New Spain. Serra was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988, in Vatican City.
View into the chapel
The mission grounds are a historical site, providing a glimpse into what life was like in the early days of California. The mission grew most rapidly during the years between its founding and 1812, when many of the buildings were destroyed by an earthquake. After that it gradually declined and then in 1834 the Mexican government disbanded the mission system and the property was sold. The restoration of the mission and its grounds and its development as a museum were spearheaded by Charles Lummis who, along with other notable Californians, founded the Landmarks Club in the early 1900s to save the California Missions.
Covered walkway provided shelter from sun and rain
Today, as one tours the grounds of the mission one can see the rooms where the padres lived and ate, the soldiers barracks, Junipero Serra’s chapel, gardens, a cemetery, workshops and more. There is even a small library. I was interested to see that even in the early days, books played an important role in the life of the Mission. (See my recent post at my Art and Books blog.) 
Central courtyard
Beautiful gardens filled with flowers, fountains, and butterflies decorate the central courtyards. Surrounding the courtyards are mission rooms which are bordered by colonnades that provide welcome shade on a hot day.
Tallow cooking stoves melted animal fat for use in making soaps, for leather work and cooking.
The Mission continues efforts in preservation, with the help of donations each year. Although the Mission is owned by the Catholic Church, it is run by a non-profit organization. This means Mission San Juan Capistrano does not receive any funding from the Catholic Church, State, or Federal Government for operation or preservation. It depends entirely on the generous contributions of visitors and benefactors. With the help of the public, the Mission can continue to be a an inspirational historic, cultural, and religious site.

Getting there: We drove to San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano (about one and a half hours or so on the 405 and 5 freeways from West Los Angeles) but one can also take Amtrak from downtown Los Angeles. The stop in San Juan Capistrano is just a short distance from the Mission; the stop in San Clemente it is right at the pier.
More info: For hours, ticket prices and more information go to the Mission website: https://www.missionsjc.com/

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