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San Juan Capistrano

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S: Mission San Juan Capistrano June 30, 2012

BC: The Swallows of San Juan Capistrano The miracle of the swallows of Capistrano takes place each year at the Mission San Juan Capistrano, on March 19th, St. Joseph's Day. As the little birds wing their way back to the most famous mission in California, the village of San Juan Capistrano takes on a fiesta air and the visitors from all parts of the world, and all walks of life, gather in great numbers to witness the "miracle" of the return of the swallows. The swallows leave Goya, Argentina on the 18th day of February, at dawn, in successive bands, and arrive all together in Capistrano on the 19th day of March, taking exactly thirty days to cover almost 7,300 miles During the thirty days that the voyage lasts, they do not eat or drink, since they fly from dawn to sunset. They fly at an altitude of more than 6,600 ft to take advantage of the fast and favorable currents and to avoid birds of prey. Each year the "Scout Swallows" precede the main flock by a few days, and it seems to be their chief duty to clear the way for the main flock to arrive at the "Old Mission" of Capistrano. With the arrival of early dawn on St. Joseph's Day, the little birds begin to arrive and begin rebuilding their mud nests, which are clinging to the ruins of the old stone church of San Juan Capistrano. The arches of the two story, high vaulted Chapel were left bare and exposed, as the roof collapsed during the earthquake of 1812. This Chapel, said to be the largest and most ornate in any of the missions, now has a more humble destiny--that of housing the birds that St. Francis loved so well. After the summer spent within the sheltered walls of the Old Mission in San Juan Capistrano, the swallows take flight again, and on the Day of San Juan, October 23, they leave after circling the Mission bidding farewell to the "Jewel of the Missions," San Juan Capistrano, California. Taken from "The Story of the Swallows" from

FC: Mission San Juan Capistrano Dave and Jamie Fisher June 30, 2012

1: Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded on November 1, 1776 by Father Junipero Serra and is the seventh in the chain of 21 California missions. The millstones shown below were used to grind grain and olives. The Indians were shown how to make and use millstones from granite and volcanic rock from Mexican artisans. The San Juan Capistrano Basilica was finished in 1986 and is an attempted replica of the original.

5: The Great Stone Church The Great Stone Church was one of the last buildings to be constructed at the mission, taking nine years, with its dedication in 1806. The church was constructed of stone in the shape of a cross. Five domes covered the nave and additional domes covered the arms. The niches in walls once held religious statues. The walls are full of obsidian and fossilized shells and coral, put into the walls by the native women when told about the women of Jerusalem who gave their jewelry to help build the temple of King Solomon's time. The Great Stone Church was considered the largest and loveliest building in all of California; however, on December 8, 1812, an earthquake struck during an early morning service. The bell tower and several domes collapsed, killing forty-two people. Many people escaped through the door shown below. The church remained untouched until 1989, when preservation and stabilization work began. The Great Stone Church was rededicated on July 28, 2004.

7: The Sacred Garden and Bells The bells originally hung in the bell tower of the Great Stone Church, but were relocated to the wall of the Sacred Garden after the 1812 earthquake. The two largest bells, San Vicente and San Juan, were cast in 1796, and were removed from the wall and replaced with the current replicas. The originals are hanging off a wood post near the Great Stone Church. The two smaller bells, San Antonio and San Rafael were cast in 1804. The bells were used for over 200 years.

11: North Wing Central Courtyard Cemetery The North Wing was the warehouse for storing tallow, grains, and hides. The original building fell apart, but was rebuilt by Father O'Sullivan on the original foundation in the late 1920s The Central Courtyard was originally a bare dirt work area and hosted many rodeos. The Fountain of Four Evangelists and the garden was built in the 1930s. The cemetery was used from 1781 to the early 1850s. Graves were dug on top of existing graves, and approximately 2000 burials are recorded.

12: Serra Chapel and the Work Areas Serra Chapel was built in 1782 and restored in the 1920s. It is narrow because the trees of the area were available in lengths no wider than what is seen in the chapel. The floor was originally dirt and later tiled. The Golden Alter from Barcelona, Spain is more than 350 years old and is made of wood, covered with gold leaf. The tallow vats and cauldrons were used to boil down tallow to make candles, soap, grease and ointment. The Catalan Furnace is the oldest metal furnace in California and named for Cataluna, Spain, where the furnace was developed in the eighth century.The Native American outdoor kitchen was used to prepare enormous quantities of food. The morning and evening meal was atole, corn or grain gruel, while the midday meal was pozole, a thick stew of meat, beans, and corn.

13: Tallow Vats | Furnace Area and Outdoor Kitchen | Clothes Dying Vats

14: Mission Garden | Cowhides were used in place of money with trade ships and were known as "California Banknotes." Missions produced fine-quality leather hides desired by many traders.

15: Wine Fermentation Vat

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  • By: Jamie F.
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