Bells were used in the missions to call everyone to the church for services starting at sunrise, to communicate the time of day and to regulate daily life in the community. In the mission era neither the priests nor the Indian neophytes had watches.
The mission bells started the day and summoned everyone to morning mass. The bells were also rung at noon to announce the midday meal and at sunset, when the bells called everyone home from work.
The bells used in the early missions were sent by ship with other supplies from New Spain (Mexico) and were considered essential in founding a new mission where they were hung from poles until a church could be built. The bells were blessed in a special service. The bells show the date they were cast.
Most of the California missions had a bell tower or companario to hold the mission bells. Some had bell walls attached to the church.
Perhaps the most well know bells in the California Missions are those at San Juan Capistrano, shown in this picture.
[inline:bell.jpg=San Juan Capistrano Bells]