San Juan Bautista

The 15th of the California Missions
The 15th of the California Missions
Special Designation: 
Mission of Music
Named For: 
St. John the Baptist
Also Called: 
La Misión del Glorioso Precursor de Jesu Cristo, Nuestro Señor San Juan Bautista (The Mission of the Glorious Precursor of Jesus Christ, Our Lord San Juan Bautista)
Founding Father President: 
Fr. Fermín Francisco de Lasuėn
Founding Missionaries: 
Frs. Pedro Martínez and José Martiarena
Mission Site: 
Located on the main plaza in the town that developed around the mission, some 90 miles southeast of San Francisco.
Water Source: 
Ample water was channeled from El Rio del Pajaro to the mission and its orchards, vineyards, gardens and fulling mill (1818) via a system of zanjas or earthen canals. A deep pozo, or rock-lined well, was the primary source of drinking water.
Highest recorded was 1,248, in 1823.
In 1832 the mission reported a livestock herd of 6,000 cattle, 6004 sheep, 20 swine, 296 horses and 13 mules on its various ranches. Some 50 head of cattle were slaughtered weekly in order to feed the mission community
Agricultural Output: 
Total agricultural output between 1798 and 1832 was over 90,000 bushels of wheat, barley, corn, beans and peas.
Mission Church: 
The present church was dedicated on June 23, 1812, and replaced the much smaller adobe chapel of 1797-98 built by Ygnacio Barrera, Second Carpenter of the frigate Concepción. In 1818 Anglo-American carpenter Felipe Santiago (Thomas Doak), the earliest American settler in California, painted (and very likely constructed) the main altar reredos after a design by Fr. Estevan Tapis.
Mission Bells: 
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 a 1976 restoration. One of the bells is original.
Mission Art: 
The 1818 main altar reredos (altar screen) and bultos (saints) remain largely un-restored. The church ambo or pulpit, which has a sounding board mounted overhead, was installed shortly afer 1812-13. In 1820 the church acquired the larges and most complete collection of apostolate paintings in the mission chain.
Special Attraction: 
San Juan Bautista offers the best opportunity to see and appreciate the California of 160 years ago. There are some 30 historic buildings in the 12-block area surrounding the Spanish Plaza (the only original one remaining in the state) including the Mission's original adobe manjerio (nunnery), since renamed Plaza Hall and the fomer cuartel (Soldier's barracks) retrofitted by Angelo Zanetta in 1858 as the Plaza Hotel.
Year Returned to Catholic Church: 
1859, by U.S. President James Buchanan.
Current Status: 
Active Catholic church since 1797, now under the Roman Catholic Diocese of Monterey. The existing adobe church has seen continuous use since 1812.
Prominent Missionary Leaders: 
Fr. Felipe del Arroyo de la Cuesta served as head padre for 25 years. He was self-sacrificing missionary, inspired leader, scholar, linguist, ingenious inventor, clock maker and a talented singer and composer with a cheerful, witty and engaging personality. His many contributions, made despite a crippling long-term illness,have been described as nothing less than heroic.
Indians Joining This Mission: 
The mission was founded near the village of Popeloutchom in the land of the Mutsun tribelet of the Coastanoan people. Its location at the crossroads of El Camino Real (Royal Road) and El Camino Viejo (Old Road) at Pacheeo Pass drew Yokuts to the mission in significant numbers in the 1820s. The Amah Mutsun decendants of the San Juaneros, or mission neophytes, have engaged in a decades-long struggle for Federal recognition of their tribal status.
Interesting Facts: 
San Juan Bautista had a renowned Indian boys choir developed by Fr. Estévan Tapis who retired to this mission after serving nine years as Father-President.
You can see part of the original El Camino Real (Royal Road) just beyond the walls of the mission cemetery; the road is situated atop an escarpment of the great rift of the San Andeas Fault.
The mission was the setting for Alfred Hitchcock's 1957 production of the movie Vertigo starring James Stewart, Kim Novak, and Barbara Bel Geddes.
Each December 21st and/or 22nd the mission church is opened to the public for the annual midwinter solstice illumination of the main altar.