“You expect to see things like this Europe, not Southern California.” As I looked at the nearly 200 year old ruins of The Great Stone Church, I couldn’t agree more with Corri. The Great Stone Church was the great finale to our historical San Juan Mission tour, a tour that had been filled historical facts, looks of wonderment at lots of old stuff, great pictures and deep debates about Ruby’s Diner.
Armed with 50% off coupons from our Entertainment books, Joe, me, my brother Austin and my friend Corri ventured to the San Juan Capistrano Mission last week. For someone who grew up within walking distance of the mission, I really haven’t ever taken advantage of its history and charm. So with audio tour and giant camera in hand, I was ready to tackle the mission like a true tourist.
One of my favorite parts of the mission was the courtyard (pictured above). Today it’s a serene botanical refuge where painters and photographers come for inspiration. In the early days of the mission, however, it was the center of mission life. Women performed many of their daily tasks in the courtyard and some days mission dwellers sat on rooftops and watched rodeos take place there.
From the courtyard we ventured to the Gold Rush exhibit, which was our primary reason for going to the mission in the first place. We were not disappointed. At the far end of the exhibit was a miner’s camp complete with a tent, cookware, checkers and dress up clothes. Best of all, we got to play with all of it! Luckily there were no kids in the exhibit so we didn’t have to feel bad about invading their space…although we did get some pretty weird looks from adults.
Our audio tour led us next to Father Serra’s chapel, a gorgeous Catholic Chapel where Father Serra actually taught mass a couple hundred years ago. The Stations of the Cross displayed on the walls are original and at the entrance stands a baptismal where Father Serra and other priests baptized many Native Americans into the Catholic faith.
Lastly were the ruins of the Great Stone Church. Sadly, my camera died right before this point so I don’t have any pictures, but Corri has a great one on her blog (http://ocoddities.blogspot.com). But even the pictures don’t do it justice. It was crazy to be standing on ground where people worshiped 200 years ago, to touch walls that heard their prayers and look at the bell that called them to service. The church took about 9 years to build, and then it was only functioning for 7 before the earthquake of 1812 destroyed it along with 42 worshippers. It’s truly awe inspiring