Last time we visited the Mission of San Juan Capistrano it was before the swallows came (that day being March 19), this time it was shortly after they have left. However, we did see in the eaves of the mission their gourd-shaped nests made of mud pellets. And we saw many monarch butterflies and hummingbirds. It was not a surprise to see them hanging around the place, what with the lavish gardens and fountains which are everywhere on the Mission’s grounds. It is a beautiful place with adobe buildings and brick pathways!
I am glad we made a return visit to San Juan Capistrano as there is so much rich history within its walls. Established in 1776 by the Spanish, this was the beginning of Orange County. Secularization of the California missions happened in the 1830s. The mission territory was then distributed among 20 California families, as well as Native Americans who had lived at the Mission. President Lincoln restored the mission to the church several years before his death. On our previous trip to the mission I do not believe we had the audio tour listening device, having it this time certainly enhanced our visit. Besides explaining the different buildings and ruins of the mission, the audio had personal stories to tell- as that of a child's memory of the celebration of the return of the swallows, and a priest's recall of saying mass while chickens walked by the altar. We started our visit at Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano, which is located near the old mission. Built in 1986, it was designed after the Great Stone Church which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1812.
The ruins of the original church, built in the late 1800s, are still on the grounds of the mission today. The original bells of that church mark the spot where the bell tower of that church use to stand. With only a portion of the stone chuch surviving, it was not possible to build a complete replica.
After touring the mission we walked around the town of San Juan Capistrano. It is set in rolling hills between the Santa Ana Mountains and the sea. The town has many older adobe buildings, as the one pictured below. The house was built in 1794 and is in the process of restoration. The 1895 Sante Fe Railroad is now being used by Amtrak for a terminal and also serves as a restaurant.