Scenic USA - California

Mission San Juan Capistrano

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Mission San Juan Capistrano - San Juan Capistrano, California

Photos by Nick Havrilla

   One of the most popular Spanish missions in the American Southwest, known as the "Jewel of Missions," is located in the coastal region of southern statue - Mission San Juan Capistrano founder, Father Junipero Serra California. Visited by more than a half million guests every year, Mission San Juan Capistrano is also known for its yearly miracle, the return of Capistrano's swallows.
   Founded in 1776 by Father Junipero Serra and named for Italian Saint John of Capistrano, the mission preserves one of the oldest chapels in California. The adobe church, built by Native Americans, dates back to 1782 and is still in use today. Although restoration efforts have kept the chapel intact over the years, a 2005 detailed inspection indicated Serra Chapel was in need of immediate attention. A large scale restoration project called for stabilization of the original wall plasters, Serra Chapel golden retablo - Mission San Juan Capistrano interior restoration of the paint finishes, regilding of the golden retablo, repair of the sacristy and choir loft, and cleaning the chapel's 17th-century paintings. Recently reopened, visitors and parishioners may once again gaze upon the magnificent golden altar screen, regilded and returned to its original splendor.
   After spending winter in Goya, Argentina, the Capistrano swallows seem to have their yearly travel plans set up for an early dawn arrival on St. Joseph's Day, March 19th. Making a 6000 mile flight, the American cliff swallows quickly turn to the task of rebuilding their mud nests. The high vaulted walls of the ornate mission, exposed by an 1812 earthquake, have converted the old church ruins into a swallow aviary. Subject of song and print, visitors gather from around the world to celebrate the swallow's return to southern California.

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