Founded June 24 1797, San Juan Bautista is the fifteenth mission in the chain stretching from San Diego to San Francisco along the coastal strip. The missionaries had hoped to establish missions only a day’s ride apart, but there were still long stretches between them making travel difficult and dangerous. A site in the San Juan Valley, some 90 miles southeast of San Francisco, was selected for the Mission of San Juan Bautista – St John the Baptist.
(click on an image to enlarge and for more information)
By 1800 there were more than 500 Mutsan Indians living at the mission, but in October that year a series of earthquakes occurred which caused extensive damage to the church and other buildings. Although rebuilt, more earthquakes destroyed the church including the great earthquake of 1906. The entire church was restored to its original design in 1975-6.
The cloister wing housed the living quarters of the padres and extends from the left side of the old mission church and the memorial bell stands in the interior courtyard where time stands still.
The church did not include a bell tower. Two bells were hung from a wooden bell rack. A two-tiered companario with three bell openings was added during the 1976 restoration. One of the bells is original.
My visit was on a hot day in February when I drove down from Santa Clara to visit the missions of San Juan and Carmel. It was an easy, scenic drive along Highway 101 to San Juan Bautista where I found an historic Spanish plaza looking as though I’d stepped back 160 years. I spent a couple of hours looking around this mission, its church, courtyard and museum rooms.