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Navigation for San Juan Capistrano:

Mission San Juan Capistrano

In Brief

Founded: 1 November 1776 by Blessed Junípero Serra
Named for: Saint John of Capistrano, Italy
Number in Series: 7th
Indian Name: Sajirit or Quanis-savit
Brand: San Juan Capistrano Brand


date: Item.



2000: The church is officially called Basilica of Mission San Juan Capistrano. A Basilica is a Church of historic significance as determined by the Pope.



  • California Missions by Sunset Editors. (September 1979) Sunset Pub Co
  • Mission Info Page at url
  • Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record San Juan Capistrano Mission Data Sheet at the Library of Congress


Holding area for random notes:

1777: First chapel constructed.

1796: Quadrangle construction (through 1806).

8 December 1812: Forty Indians killed when church collapses. (Wrightwood Earthquake?)

21 April 1918: Mission damaged in San Jacinto Earthquake.

No tiles before 1790.


What the city council probably didn't know is that they were also saying goodbye to a direct descendant of two figures from the state's Spanish mission days, the Rios brothers, a pair of Spaniards who got off the boat in the mid-1700s with father Junipero Serra. The old Rios house next to mission San Juan Capistrano still stands as a historic monument to California's early past. [Firpo, Eric. "End of an Era." Santa Maria Times, 2 July 1998, p B-1]


Engineering Record:

Date of erection: Founded 1776. Construction of buildings was almost continuous for many years. The stone church was completed in 1806.

Present condition: The stone church is in a ruined state, walls and roof of the Sanctuary & Sacristy and parts of the east and west Transept walls remain standing as well as small fragments of the walls forming the Nave. The Padres' house, Refectory, Serra's Church, Living Quarters, and the Barracks building have all been restored and are in good repair. A new building used as a school has been erected on the site of the original building of the shops; of the structures on the West side of the inner quadrangle little more than the foundations remains. Serra's church has been much changed from the original design.

Number of stories: For the most part one story.

Materials of Construction; The large or stone church, as it is called, was built of field and quarry stone. Both yellow and blue sand stones were used for quoin treatment of exterior corners, cornices, pilasters, mouldings, and arches. The roof was also of stone, built in the form of arches and domes. This stone was quarried in the hills or mountains not far distant; field stones were used in the body of the walls laid up in lime mortar. See plans. Walls of all other buildings were built of sun dried adobe brick and with lime stone lintels over a few of the more important doors and windows. Colonnade piers and arches forming corridors were built of brick with sand stone springer and key stones in arches. All walls both inside and out including all stone work was plastered and white washed. Original roofs were of heavy frame construction and covered with tile. Floors are, in general, of large red brick tile. Brick was used with the adobe occasionally for window and door arches and jambs.

Additional Data: In plan this was the most elaborate of the 21 California Missions being the seventh in the chain. The first building of permanent character was the chapel now known as Serra's Church. This formed the East side of a quadrangle, while on the south was built the Padres' Living Quarters, and shops and store rooms formed the remaining sides. Outside the quadrangle was built a structure called the barracks for the Military guard.

The most important and pretentious building of the group is the Stone Church begun in 1796 and finished in 1806. It was partly destroyed in 1812 by an earthquake, and has not been used since that time. In the 1860's an attempt was made to rebuild the church with adobe walls but the work was not completed.

The reader is referred to the volume "Mission San Juan Capistrano" by Fr. Zephyrin Engelhardt for a description of the several buildings as they were originally built, and a description of the repairs made in recent years.

By 1900 the several Mission buildings were in a much ruined condition when the Landmarks Club of Southern California under the presidency of Charles Lummis raised funds and with the assistance of A. B. Benton, Architect of Los Angeles directed repairs and reconstruction over a period of seven years. The Fathers in charge of the Mission since that time have continued the restoration work as funds have been available.

The reredos in Serra's church brought from Spain a few years ago, was a gift to the Mission and the church was enlarged to receive it.

June 1, 1937


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