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The Roving Turtle

January 05, 2006|By Bea Abbey

The 'Jewel of Missions'

By the time you read this edition of the La Cañada Valley Sun, you will know who won he USC-Texas Rose Bowl game. (Hope it was USC, and I happen to be a UCLA fan for many reasons). Anyhow, Happy New Year to all!

A few days ago, an article in the Pasadena Star News told of the action going on at the San Juan Capistrano Mission. It seems termites had been working away for years, chewing, scratching, eating, etc.

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I checked with the office there, and the mission is now neat and clean, ready for you and the swallows that will migrate there any time now.

Mission San Juan Capistrano is known as the "jewel of missions" and probably the most visited one. There are several campground in the vicinity where you can enjoy watching the ocean waves going "crazy" sometimes.

Originally founded by Father Lasuen on Oct. 30, 1775, the site was abandoned after eight days when they received word of an attack at the San Diego Mission. They quickly buried the bells for safe keeping and fled to the Presidio (fort) in San Diego for shelter.

When Father Serra returned a year later, he found the cross erected earlier by Father Lasuen was still in place, and the bells remained safe in their hiding place in the ground. Within the first year, a little chapel that is still in use today was completed. It is believed to be the oldest church in California. Since it is still one of two standing where Father Serra said mass, it is called Father Serra's Church.

In 1796, work was begun on a large stone church that was to be the most magnificent of all the California missions. Under the guidance of an expert stonemason from Mexico, the natives transported the stones from a quarry six miles away. Nine years later, the church was completed. The Great Stone Church was built in the shape of a cross with a 100 foot tall bell tower that could be seen for miles.

This magnificent church only stood for six years. The devastating earthquake of 1812 destroyed this pride of California missions. Tragically, 40 bodies were dug out of the rubble as the quake struck during a mass. No plans were ever made to build the Great Stone Church.

Later in the 1890s, restoration attempts were successful in saving Father Serra's church from disintegrating. The most recent and thorough restoration began in 1987 after the Whittier earthquake.

If you are in the area next March 19, St. Joseph's Day, visit the mission to see the swallows that annually migrate some 2,000 miles from their winter homes in Central America. Tei mission bells will be ringing.San Juan Capistrano

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