Saturday, August 11, 2018

San Juan Capistrano

Today is the second time I have posted photos from Mission San Juan Capistrano (see the first post HERE) - the third of 21 Spanish missions in California. Most kids who went to grade school in California studied the missions, and know all about Father Junipero Serra (in the first photo you can see a statue of him near the center).

Capistrano is probably the best-known mission of the bunch, thanks in part to the legend of the "Return of the Swallows" - thousands of the birds used to fly all the way from Argentina (where they wintered) to nest in the ruins of church. In recent years, the number of swallows has dwindled.

Below you can see the ruins of the "Great Stone Church", destroyed by an earthquake in 1812. 

You can see why visitors would have been drawn to this beautiful, peaceful place. Strangely one website says that Capistrano was the 7th of the 21 missions. Wikipedia has an article listing it as the third mission. I think that it might be the 3rd one as you head north from the bottom of California, but it was the seventh to be constructed. Please correct me if I'm wrong!

There's nothing like a few graceful, crumbling arches. Especially if they're made of adobe bricks. Can you say "adobe"? 

Here's a lovely final shot with the silhouette of a woman standing in an archway - it reminds me of the final shot in "The Searchers".


Nanook said...


Not only can I say "adobe", I can also say "tortilla". Well, buenos días-! I see that 'ol Father Serra knew just where to place this mission - evidently co-located near a liquor store. Ah-hem...

Undoubtedly, John Ford himself staged the last image.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

The crumbling arches in the second to last pic, remind me of the "El Camino Real" arches from Knott's Berry Farm.

I love the song, "When The Swallows Come Back to Capistrano"...the original version, by The Ink Spots!

TokyoMagic! said...

P.S. It's such a shame that the swallows no longer return to Capistrano. I'm guessing the reason is because of global climate change?

Budblade said...

So, in the distance of the second to last photo, is that the “gas station de San Juan Capistrano”? The one that the fords return to each year?

Just askin’



I live in Aliso Viejo and friends and I go to San Juan Capistrano often for certain restaurants , the Mission and the historic district. While the swallows DO still return in much smaller quantities - it’s not caused by global climate change but by the fact of the mass amount of development and construction - San Juan Capistrano is no longer the sleepy stagecoach stop it was but a traffic congested and over developed “planned” community. The swallows are not returning in droves because of humans love of Starbucks - cellphones , condos and automobiles.

Chuck said...

I have always loved this place. Although it's been more than 20 years since my last real visit, even then, San Juan Capistrano was slowly turning into San Juan Cappuccino. When we drove through with the kids in '09, we decided not to stop because the place was so built up that we couldn't find any parking.

Nanook, if they'd only built a mission in Bronson Canyon...

JC Shannon said...

Of course I can say adobe. I loved the tv show The Many Loves of Adobe Gillis, you know the one about the teenager made of earthen brick? No? Anyhow, I went with the fam to Capistrano as a kid. I remember how quiet and peaceful it was. I guess urban sprawl has kinda ruined that. So sad about the swallows, we all learned about them, and Father Serra in Colfax Avenue Elementary. Great memories, thanks Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, please say hello to our residents Pedro and Inez! John Ford had probably had a drink or two, but he still knew how to frame a shot.

TokyoMagic!, ha ha, at least the arches didn’t remind you of “I Love Lucy”. Did she and Ricky ever visit the California Missions? Whenever I think of the song you mentioned, I remember Bugs Bunny singing it under his breath on one of the old cartoons.

TokyoMagic!, the swallows are just lazy and staring at their phones all day. Ironically, they don’t use Twitter.

Budblade, if I could insert the sound of a rim shot here, I would do it!

Mike Cozart, I remember when news crews would do annual stories about the swallows returning to Capistrano. At some point, they were lucky to see one or two birds on any given day. It’s a shame that development has encroached on the mission - everyone wants to live in sunny California, it seems.

Chuck, I admit that I haven’t been to that particular mission since I was a kid. Since then I have visited others (I was just at Mission San Luis Obispo recently), and still love to go. And my sister got married at Mission Santa Barbara! If only they’d build a mission next to Bronson Pinchot.

Jonathan, OUCH. I’m not sad about the swallows, they can just replace them with people dressed as the Minions. We visited Capistrano as part of a school field trip, and my #1 memory was getting a little paper tub of ice cream (with a wooden spoon) afterwards.

Anonymous said...

These are beautiful photos, Major. Some views almost Piranesian with vines and crumbled masonry.

I don't think I have ever visited this mission, although the ones further north are often on my itinerary. I enjoy visiting Mission San Miguel and San Luis Obispo, which are in good repair. as is Sonoma, but it is old hat since I see it so often.

The swallows are a romantic aspect, but overrated (in my opinion) by people who have never had to clean up after them. They were a feature of several buildings and bridges in my youth and the mess they leave is amazing. Hopefully their population is not in decline, and they are just nesting elsewhere away from humanity.