Mission San Juan Bautista is a Spanish mission in San Juan Bautista, San Benito County, California. Founded on June 24, 1797 by Fermín Lasuén of the Franciscan order, the mission was the fifteenth of the Spanish missions established in present-day California. Named for Saint John the Baptist, the mission is the namesake of the city of San Juan Bautista.
Barracks for the soldiers, a nunnery, the Jose Castro House, and other buildings were constructed around a large grassy plaza in front of the church and can be seen today in their original form. The Ohlone, the original residents of the valley, were brought to live at the mission and baptized, followed by Yokuts from the Central Valley. Mission San Juan Bautista has served mass daily since 1797, and today functions as a parish church of the Diocese of Monterey.
Following its creation in 1797, San Juan's population grew quickly. By 1803, there were 1,036 Native Americans living at the mission. Ranching and farming activity had moved apace, with 1,036 cattle, 4,600 sheep, 22 swine, 540 horses and 8 mules counted that year. At the same time, the harvest of wheat, barley and corn was estimated at 2,018 fanegas, each of about 220 pounds.
Father Pedro Estévan Tápis (who had a special talent for music) joined Father Felipe Arroyo de la Cuesta, at Mission San Juan Bautista in 1815 to teach singing to the Indians. He employed a system of notation developed in Spain that uses varied colors or textures for polyphonic music, usually (from bottom to top) solid black, solid red, black outline (sometimes solid yellow) and red outline (or black outline when yellow was used). His choir of Native American boys performed for many visitors, earning the San Juan Bautista Mission the nickname "the Mission of Music." Two of his handwritten choir books are preserved at the San Juan Bautista Museum. When Father Tapis died in 1825 he was buried on the mission grounds. The town of San Juan Bautista, which grew up around the mission, expanded rapidly during the California Gold Rush and continues to be a thriving community today.
The mission is situated adjacent to the San Andreas Fault, and has suffered damage from numerous earthquakes, such as those of 1800 and 1906. However, the mission was never entirely destroyed at once. It was restored initially in 1884, and then again in 1949 with funding from the Hearst Foundation. The three-bell campanario, or "bell wall," located by the church entrance, was fully restored in 2010. An unpaved stretch of the original El Camino Real, just east of the mission, lies on a fault scarp.
Although initially secularized in 1835, the church was reconsecrated by the Roman Catholic Church in 1859, and continues to serve as a parish of the Diocese of Monterey. The mission includes a cemetery, with the remains of over 4,000 Native American converts and Europeans buried there.
The mission and its grounds were featured prominently in the 1958 Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo. Associate producer Herbert Coleman's daughter Judy Lanini suggested the mission to Hitchcock as a filming location. A steeple, added sometime after the mission's original construction and secularization, had been demolished following a fire, so Hitchcock added a bell tower using scale models, matte paintings, and trick photography at the Paramount studio in Los Angeles. The tower does not resemble the original steeple. The tower's staircase was assembled inside a studio.
The San Juan Bautista is one of the 21 missions in California. The San Juan Bautista was founded on June 24, 1797. It was called the Mission of Music and was named for St. John the Baptist. However, it was also called, “The Mission of the Glorious Precursor of Jesus Christ, Our Lord San Juan Bautista.” The person who founded the San Juan Bautista was named Fr. Fermín Francisco Lasuėn.
Be sure to check out our photos of this beautiful location in our Photo Album.