What was life at the mission like in the early days?

In the very early days all of the missions struggled to get established. San Juan Capistrano's beginning was interrupted for a year when Indians attacked and burned the San Diego Mission, and work on the new mission was suspended. When the missionaries returned they gradually developed the mission by recruiting and training neophytes, beginning to plant in the fields and build structures, the first of which was a chapel. Because the mission was in a fertile valley blessed with a moderate climate the mission soon flourished.

Daily life in this small self contained community was quite busy and regimented. There were regular religious services. Most of the men worked in the fields, on ranchos tending livestock or in some cases skilled trades (wood and leather working, candle making etc.). The women made clothing and cooked. Everyone was taught Spanish.

Life at the mission today reflects its popularity as a tourist
destination. Mass is still said at the original chapel (called Father Serra's Church) but the principal parish church is a new structure built nearby as the chapel is quite small.

There has been a lot of investment made in preserving the ruins of the Great Stone Church (which collapsed in an earthquake in 1812). Many school children visit this mission and they have very well organized program to orient visitors, raise money for the preservation of the mission and celebrate events that took place.

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