Mission San Juan Bautista
From Mrs. Nancy Hopes' 4th Grade Class
Summerdale Elementary School
San Jose, California
Location, Founder, Unique Characteristics:
Mission San Juan Bautista, the fifthteenth mission along the California mission trail, was founded on June 24, 1797 by Father Fermin Lasuen. The mission is located in the town of San Juan Bautista, four miles south of U.S. Highway 101, 90 miles south of San Francisco, in a sunny valley of oak trees. It was named in honor of St. John the Baptist, noted in the Bible as a contemporary and kinsman of Jesus, also know as "The Mission of Music". It was known to be the widest of the mission churches, it is the only mission designed with a three aisle entrance to the altar.
The church stands 188 feet long, 72 feet wide, 40 feet high; the largest of any mission church. The style is grand, through the front is plain except for three aches and a single square window. Open -arched walls separate the side aisles from the main aisle. The mission is made of adobe brick, tile roof, and a title floor. Walls are three feet thick with cement support.
The original church did not have a bell tower, bells hung from a wooded crossbar in the courtyard. In 1867, a New England style steeple was added but destroyed in 1915. In 1976 a campanario was erected in the style of the other missions. Originally nine bells hung outside the church, most have been lost and presently only three bells still exist.
The Mission grounds consist of 36 acres of pear and apple orchards and many herds of animals making this a rich mission. Farming began with the first padre and continues in present day.
Father Lasuen found the native Indians to be friendly and cooperative allowing the original mission to grow quickly. Within a six month record, the first adobe church, a monastery, granary, barracks, and some adobe houses were built. The church was experiencing a rapidly growing following and a plan for enlargement was being considering when an earthquakes jolted the area and a portion of the original building fell. In June, 1803, the cornerstone was laid for the much-larger present church. It was dedicated on June 23, 1812. and has almost been in continuous use since.
Originally the new church was designed with three aisles to the altar to house a capacity of over a thousand worshipers. While the building was in construction, the padres gave thought to the safety of the open-arched walls and separated side aisles. They were fearful the nave would not support the heavy roof in a possible earthquake. They decided to close in all the arches except for the first pair which therefore, changed the original unique characteristics of the three-aisle church to become like all the rest, one-aisle.
Six years after its dedication, the colorful reredos was added with six statues. The murals were painted by Thomas Doak, an American sailor, who was willing to work in exchange for room and board.
Buried in the sanctuary of the church is Padre Esteban Tapis. Padre Tapis was once the Presidente of the Missions and the Founder of Mission Santa Ynes. After his retirement of office, he came to San Juan Bautista where he brought his musical talents and famed a new name for San Juan Bautista as the "Mission of Music". Inside the museum, two of his handwritten choir books can be viewed.
With the San Adress Fault running along the base of the hill below the cemetery, the mission has been very vulnerable to earthquake damage throughout its history. In 1906, there was a violent earthquake which shook the greater part of central California. It was during this quake that the church's side walls toppled along with some outbuildings. It appeared evident that the walls had been previously weakened by ground water that softened the adobe brick which quickly gave way. Walls standing on dry ground came through the earthquake without damage. As the mission was rebuilt after the quake, the buildings were strengthen with steel, concrete, and cross-bracing making it safer now than it ever was.
Student's Field Trip Reports
My Trip to San Juan Bautista Mission (May 21,1996)
First, we went to the courtyard with the park ranger. The park ranger told us about the mission and about mission life. Also the park ranger told us about the town of San Juan Bautista. The ranger reminded us how old the mission was, (June, 1803 the cornerstone was laid for the present church). It is almost two hundred years old!
Strolling around the Plaza of San Juan Bautista, we saw the Plaza Hotel, which was originally the mission barracks. A second story was added in 1858, built with rooms of dressers and beds.
Then we went into the mission, it was very peaceful, because the church was very quiet.
On May 21, 1996, my class and I went to San Juan Bautista Mission. We left our school about 9:00 a.m. We reached the mission about 10:00 a.m. When we first got to the mission, we met a park ranger, he gave us a lot of information about the people who lived in this area and how they built the mission. When it was time to tour the mission, my group first went to the graveyard. Then we walked down the hallway to the museum. The first room we entered was the dining room, then the kitchen and the living rooms,and then we saw Father's Serra clothes. When we needed to check the time, we went outside to the sun dial.
On May 21st, we went to a mission called San Juan Bautista. I had a great time there. Here is what we did.
At first we met a park ranger. He told us about the mission. After that we went into the chapel, I saw candles where they prayed, the main altar and reredos. In the reredo, six statues are displayed that were completed by Thomas Doak, an American sailor, who painted in exchange for room and board at the mission. I also saw the Baptisty, where they baptized the children. A souvenir shop which was once a storeroom in the mission led us to the museum where the padre's living quarters once were. On display in the museum were the costumes that the priest wore and the pots that they grinded corn in.
I observed the inside of the church. I saw how beautiful it was and how much time was spent painting the beautiful pictures. The church was interesting because it was almost 200 years old. In the museum, we were able to see the clothes that Father Serra wore when he was alive. We saw beautiful gardens surrounding the mission filled with flowers and plants. Our ranger guide talked about how the Native Americans lived and how the Spanish came from Spain.
My trip to San Juan Bautista was exciting! I went to the graveyard with the group and we saw a great cross and a few graves. Then I went in the courtyard where there were many plants and a few bells. Soon we went to the hotel where they showed many antiques that used to belong to the people who once lived in the mission. Then we went to the stable where many wagons were once used, there was a family wagon. We noticed near the graveyard, there was a machine that measured the earthquake in 1906.