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Dee Callahan Art Blog

California Missions

by decal5 , January 28, 2011—12:00 AM

Topics: Artwork, California, Heritage, San Juan Capistrano, blessings, missions, reredos

One of the things that I have been interested in since my childhood, is to be able to tour all of the 21 California Missions. Being a native Californian, you would think that it would be an easy thing to accomplish; but for me it is still on my "Bucket List", as I age. Most of the years that I lived in California were working years when I was establishing myself and my career. There were not too many free moments, and that is one thing that I now regret. As I grow older, I realize that this is still one of my dreams and if we don't have dreams, what do we have?

Dreams are meant to be in our lives so that we can turn them into reality. This is one dream that I am working on, especially since I left California in 1980 as a resident. Over the years, I have returned and each time I do, I try to get to one of the missions and learn something more of my heritage. You see, the First California Mission carries our family name, San Diego de Alcala and is of great significance to me!! It was named after the patron St. of Alcala Spain; St Didacus....and was founded in July 1769.

I am going to start out by introducing you to the Mission San Juan Capistrano because that is the most recent mission that I have visited. Later on I will add other missions. You will be able to see additional pictures in my San Juan Capistrano Mission Gallery on my website art galleries page.

San Juan Capistrano is famous because of the " Cliff Swallows" that return there each and every year during Springtime. What is even more amazing is that the majority of them do so right on St. Joseph's day. What most people do not know however is that the swallows also return to the Mission in Carmel, Calif. called " San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo". That too is a beautiful California mission that is known to cast a spell on it's visitors. Carmel is the 2nd of the 21 missions to be founded in 1770 by Father Junipero Serra of Spain, and is the only one of the 21 missions to have a "Gothic" arch. It also has mixes of the gold and red colors of Spain with primitive Indian pigments and designs in the small chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. It is truly lovely and definitely one of my favorites!

Fast forward,back to San Juan Capistrano~ Originally founded in 1775 as an adobe structure but abandoned due to trouble with Indians. It was then pursued again in 1776 and named for St. John of Capistrano, a theologian.

San Juan Cap had everything going for it from the beginning. Located in a lovely valley with a pleasant climate, it also had an abundance of resources. These included, grains, vegetables and cattle in the hills. Capistrano prospered and grew as did the storehouses shops and barracks that were once so prevelant there. In fact it outgrew it's original adobe structure, so in 1796 a stone structure was designed and created to replace the adobe one. This was done under the direction of a master mason! After 9 years of work and the hard labor of the Mission Indians, the mission was complete!!( My maternal Grandmother was a Mission Indian of the Gabrielino Tongva Tribe;Shoshone nation, so there is heritage on both sides.)

The new mission was Cathedral like and an imposing edifice. The design was cruciform with a vaulted ceiling that surmounted 7 domes. At the entrance there was a 120 feet hign bell tower that was visible for ten miles! The original belltower you see in my pictures still remains intact today. The church served the people very well for 6 years, and then in 1812, just as two indian boys in the belltower belfry rang for the next mass,a major earthquake hit the mission. The walls swayed and broke and the concrete ceiling came a tumbling down on helpless worshippers~ A few rushed into the sanctaury at the urging of the local padre, and were saved, and the most amazing thing is that the sanctuary went almost unharmed and none of the statues or the furniture in there suffered much damage. The mission is now the most graceful and beautiful ruins of the California Mission chain. Only the sanctuary remains intact. The masonary and the Bell Tower you see there today,and in my pictures are the originals and a site to behold! The sturdy arches and columns that I also show, are the makeup of an amazing corridor.They are simply splendid. Anyone who takes the tour and walks through the grounds of the beautiful mission will feel blessed~

In the early 19th century there were fabulous 300 year old baroque reredos imported from Barcelona, Spain put into this mission. Reredos are painted or carved altarpieces. They are beautiful screens placed above and behind the altar and communion table... There is also a "Moorish" style fountain in the inner patio and you will find huge koi there and on the grounds, in the water. Bougainvilla flowers lend their beauty to the sturdy formidable columns of the corridor, and calm seems to be the thought for the day. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to San Juan Capistrano and taking the pictures that I took to share. It was awesome! I welcome your comments~ Thanx for dropping by~




  Judy Crawford

02/02/2011 * 21:59:37

I love reading your blogs. You are so descriptive in all that you are trying to get across to the reader. You certainly have not only a talent with your artwork, but also with your words!
You're quite a historian as well and I see that you have throroughly researched
each subject that you talk about.I am proud of you sis and very impressed.

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