In the charming town of San Juan Bautista, Calif. -- history lives on in many buildings around one of California's original town squares. The Old Mission San Juan Bautista is located facing the expansive lawn and other buildings dating back to the 1800s.
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. oldmissionsjb.org
The 15th of 21 missions in Alta, California (and one of four missions established by Fr. Lasuen,) the buildings and grounds 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, the largest of the California missions, a State Historic Park with the only Spanish Plaza left in California, and a National Register of Historic Places San Juan Bautista Commercial District make this mission visit one worth the trip.
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, and accessible to the
tourist destination Monterey Bay Area which is approx. a 40 minute drive.
To the northwest is San Jose's Silicon Valley less than 50 miles away, and San
Francisco Bay Area 92 miles distance.