California Missions


Mission San Juan Bautista

Old Mission San Juan Bautista
406 2nd St.
San Juan Bautista, CA

Open daily for tours (except major holidays). Charges small fee for touring inside the mission. Gift shop is free to visit, browse, and buy religious items and souvenirs.

In the charming town of San Juan Bautista, Calif. history lives on in many buildings around one of California's original town squares. The building and grounds of Old Mission San Juan Bautista, the 15th of 21 missions in Alta, California (and one of four missions established by Fr. Lasuen,) were dedicated on June 24, 1797.

Mission San Juan Bautista in San Juan Bautista, California was built along the Camino Real (King's Road) which is the trail the missions were established on, usually a day's trip from one to the next. Old Mission San Juan Bautista is the largest of the California missions and part of a State Historic Park with the only Spanish Plaza left in California. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tourists going out of their way to find it also visit the San Juan Bautista Commercial District with several shops and restaurants.

In June, 1803, the cornerstone was laid for the present church. With three naves or aisles, it became the widest of all the mission churches. Interior completion of the church continued through 1817 when the floor was tiled and the main altar and reredos (which holds the six statues) were completed by Thomas Doak, an American sailor who jumped ship in Monterey. He painted the reredos in exchange for room and board.


Animal prints on the church floor tiles were made while the tiles were left outside to dry in the sun.

A Cat Door carved into the blue side door in the Guadalupe Chapel allowed cats access at all times to catch pesky mice who ate the valuable crops.

A cemetery on the church grounds contains the remains of over 4,000 Native Americans and Europeans. Ascencion Solorzano, the last pure blooded Native American of this mission, is buried in the cemetery. Her grave is marked by a red cross and a plaque has been placed on the wall above her grave in her memory.

San Juan Bautista is one of the best representations of the mission era as the city is small, mostly rural and features historic buildings that line what was once a town square facing Mission San Juan Bautista.

In 1906, an earthquake shook the greater part of central California collapsing the side walls of the mission church. They were restored in 1976. Vestiges of the original El Camino Real can still be seen north of the cemetery and the San Andreas Fault runs along the base of the hill below the cemetery.

Guadalupe Chapel, the original chapel, has been restored along with the actual mission well.

San Juan Bautista is located along State Highway 156, inland from the Monterey and Santa Cruz County beaches by about 20 miles. The famed Monterey Bay Area is approx. a 40 minute drive. To the northwest less than 50 miles distance is San Jose's Silicon Valley, and San Francisco Bay Area is approx. 92 miles away.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

More Info

Near San Juan Bautista