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Footsteps of History

The California Missions

San Juan Bautista

Mission San Juan Bautista, San Juan Bautista, California

Mission San Juan Bautista
"The Mission of Music"
Founded June 24, 1797
by Father Fermin de Lasuen
The 15th Mission of the California Mission Chain

Naming of Mission:

The mission was named for St. John, the Baptist

Location:

The San Juan Bautista Mission is located on Highway 156 in San Juan Bautista about 35 miles northeast of Monterey

History:

Though some soldiers and church people had arrived earlier, the date of 24 June 1797 was set aside for the founding of the San Juan Bautista Mission by Father Fermin de Lasuen. This was one of four missions to have been founded in the summer of 1797. It was also the 15th mission in the California mission chain.

The mission was left under the leadership of Fathers Jose Manuel de Martiarena and Pedro Martinez. They began construction of the mission immediately after the founding. By Christmas time of 1797, the church, a granary, barracks, a monastery and several other buildings were completed. The local Indians were a great help to the Fathers in accomplishing this task. The mission grew quickly and outgrew the initial adobe church. A new church was begun in June of 1803. It was to be a very large church with three aisles (naves). It was the largest of any mission church being 188 feet long, 72 feet wide and 40 feet tall. The building was dedicated on 23 June 1812 with the interior continuing to be completed until 1817. The church could hold over 1,000 people. The bell tower had three bells. One of them was a gift from Father Lasuen's home in Spain. The town of San Juan Bautista grew up around the mission. The town became part of the California Stage route which brought even more travelers to the mission.

Father Tapis led the mission from 1812 to 1825. Under his leadership, the mission became known for its quality education and its music. When he retired from the office as Presidente of the Missions, he came to this mission and helped it achieve musical notariety in the mission chain. Some of his hand-written music books may be seen at the mission.. He is buried in the sanctuary here.

The San Andreas Fault runs near the mission. The mission felt many earthquakes, even daily ones, during its active time as a mission. The 1906 earthquake was a violent one and the side walls of the church collapsed. The quake led to the dis-use of the outside aisles of the church and the arches separating the aisles had to be filled in. The walls were not fully restored until 1976,

The secularization took place in 1835, the Mexican government took over the missions and the mission became a pueblo. The brother of Pio Pico, Andres, inventoried the mission property in 1845. He listed a parish house of adobe and brick tile with packed clay floors and tile roofs. The buildings and just 55 acres were returned to the Church in 1895. The mission has the only original Plaza which remains in the state. The mission continued to serve as a parish church during the entire time of secularization and later to the present times. Full restoration of the mission was completed in 1949.

Contact the Mission:

Mission San Juan Bautista
Second & Mariposa Streets
P.O. Box 400
San Juan Bautista, CA 95045-0400
Phone: (831) 623-2127

Mission Trivia:

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

There is a "Cat Door" carved into the blue side door in the Guadalupe Chapel. This little door enabled the cats to come and go at will to catch mice. The mice had created a serious pest control problem by eating much of the mission harvest.

Tiles for the mission were left to dry overnight outside. Local animals walked across them as they dried, leaving footprints. Rather than throw out the tiles and wasting them, the Fathers used them in the building of the mission. These tiles may be found in a number of different areas of the mission, including the stairwell.

The mission was built right next to the huge San Andreas Fault

The Alfred Hitchcock movie, Vertigo, was filmed at the mission

Mission Links

San Juan Bautista Mission Website

A map page for the mission

History page

California Missions


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This page was last updated on 28 June 2012 at 10:06 pm

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