Fun Facts

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Where Old Mission San Juan Bautista and the Spanish and Native Californian missions of the Monterey Bay are concerned, a host of facts are available for addressing and interpreting the histories and mysteries of the time and place with your students.  We have taken the liberty of selecting basic facts and information deemed useful to your tour of the missions of the Monterey Bay, and Old Mission San Juan Bautista in particular.  We will continue to add to this Fun Facts page as questions and interests arise from among our site visitors.

General Information

Mission San Juan Bautista, the fifteenth Spanish mission was founded on June 24th of 1797 by Franciscan Father President Fermín Francisco de Lasuén, OFM.

Father Lasuén, the successor President to founding Father Junípero Serra, recruited Fathers José Manuel de Martiarena and Pedro Martinez to undertake the construction of the earliest Mission buildings with the willing assistance of local indigenous peoples, presidio soldiers, and Hispanicized Indians from Mexico.

 The Mission church is the largest in the chain of 21 California Missions. Located near the El Camino Real (north of cemetery) and San Andreas Fault. The current Museum was originally the Padres’ quarters and work areas.

 San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist): Patron Saint of Mission San Juan Bautista. Santo featured at Main Church altar and just outside the mission doors.

 Popeloutchem is the Native Californian name for the area of San Juan Bautista, otherwise identified with a Mutsun Indian village of the immediate vicinity. According to Mission records, there existed 42 Indian tribes, 29 dialects, and 13 different language groups in the region.

 The Mission sits astride the eastern edge of the Pacific Plate and San Andreas Fault.

 The Mission had extensive livestock, primarily cattle and sheep. Also “oxen, horses, mules, burros, donkeys, sheep, swine, goats, and chickens."

 Mission San Juan Bautista was the site used by famous motion picture director Alfred Hitchcock for the production of the film Vertigo in 1958. Mission Timeline

 June 24, 1797: Founded by Franciscan Fray Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, Father Presidente of the California Missions

 1799: Date the original mission chapel was built

 1812: Dedication of Mission Church

 1835: Secularization (SJB became a pueblo)

 1859: Returned to the Church by President James Buchanan

 1906: Earthquake caused severe damage to the Mission (San Andreas Fault located below the cemetery). Church side walls which collapsed were restored in 1976.

 1949: Restoration (financed by the Hearst Foundation) Historical Facts

 Mission Agriculture: grape vineyards, olive and pear orchards, corn and wheat crops, “barley, maize, kidney beans, horse beans, chickpeas, peas, beans, cotton, chile, tomatoes, apples, and indigenous and Hispanic medicinal herbs.” (rgm).

 SJB has the only surviving and original Spanish Plaza remaining in California Architectural Features

 San Juan Bautista boasts the only Mission church with three aisles, and the widest of the mission churches.

 Mission buildings, built with adobe and fired brick tile, by the indigenous Mutsun peoples include: adobe church, convento, granary, and barracks. Other materials include silt stone foundations, lime plaster, redwood vigas or roofing timbers, leather tie-downs, tamped clay and tile floors.”

 Baptismal font or baptistery is the most sacred religious space outside of the main altar area of The Blue Door with The River of Life

 Tower originally wood, rebuilt in concrete in 1860 to allow padre to ring bell in inclement weather

 Mission bells: “originally nine; three remain; cast from bronze in Mexico”

 According to Parish records the following construction was recorded between the years of 1797 and 1880: numerous granaries, housing for solteras, kitchen, guard house, four adobe and tule houses, and missionary dwelling of adobe and tules. additional adobe houses for neophytes, a tannery, a jail, cuartel (guardhouse), dorms for single men and widowers, brick and tile kiln, a limekiln for tile and brick, a fulling mill, adobe corrals for cattle and sheep, orphanage, and monjerio (nunnery – which later became the Zanetta House).

 Some of the tiles within the sanctuary contain animal prints.

 Cat door in rear side door of Guadalupe Chapel original to construction of Mission Church (cats were essential in keeping the population of rodents to a minimum) Mission Art

 Six original statues (santos) at main altar, created by Thomas Doak, first American citizen, include San Juan Bautista, San Pascal Baylon, San Antonio de Padua, Santo Domingo, San Francisco de Assisi, and San Isidoro.

 Church paintings: “oil on gesso-coated canvas paintings created in Mexico, and dating to before 1820.”

 English barrel organ: 1826, its music was of great interest to the Indians. Reportedly manufactured circa 1737, and obtained by Padre Lasuen from the British explorer CaptainVancouver and delivered to Padre Arroyo de la Cuesta. See Material Cultures

 San Juan Bautista is known as the Mission Music parishioners have used: “Hand-painted choir hymnals and alabados, music and prayer cards, music stands, pump organs, drums, base fiddles, violins and fiddles, chimes, bells, flutes, rattles, and horns.”

 English barrel organ: 1826, its music was of great interest to the Indians. Reportedly manufactured circa 1737, and obtained by Padre Lasuen from the British explorer Captain Vancouver and delivered to Padre Arroyo de la Cuesta. See

 Sundial in the courtyard was reported as an “accurate means of telling time” in 1797.

 The Mission Well was discovered on accident by mission conservation Archaeologist In December 1995. Mission Industries

 Early Mission Crafts: Wood, gesso and clay sculpture (santos), ornamental metal and tin works (retablos, tools, sheathing), fresco seco (dry fresco murals), gold leaf (burnished metallic paints on wood), canvas painting (religious motifs and portraits), tannery (hides, jackets, vests, boots and related leather works), candle and soap making (tallow), furniture craft (chairs, trunks, tables), spinning and weaving (cotton and wool blankets, clothing, and mantillas or shawls), rope manufacture (agave and hemp), saddler (leather saddles and accessories), book binding and manufacture (painting and assembly of sheep skin alabados, hymnals, and leather-bound books), ceramics (clay pottery vessels, figures, and porcelain), basketry (reed and grass vessels), stone masonry (religious sculpture, metates or basalt grinding slabs, mortars, pestles), glass works (blown glass bottles, stoppers, and window panes), cobblers (shoe manufacture), blacksmiths (horseshoes, stirrups, bridles, cannon balls, musket balls, carpentry tools, spikes, nails, and related hardware), bead work (Spanish colored glass trade and Mutsun shell beads). Notable people in Mission San Juan Bautista history

 Franciscan Padres  Rev. Joseph Manuel de Martiarena (1797-1800): First Parish Pastor

 Rev. Jacinto Lopez (1800-1801)  Rev. Domingo Santiago de Iturrate (1801-1809)

 Rev. Felipe Arroyo de la Cuesta (1809-1812, 1825-1833): linguist, created Mutsun grammar and phrase-book. Reportedly preached in multiple Indian dialects.

 Rev. Esteban Tapis (1812-1825): beloved Padre according to records, buried in the church sanctuary. Third Presidente of the Missions. A musician, known for handwriting two choir books which are held in the Museum, and reason that San Juan Bautista Mission is known as the Mission of Music.

 Rev. Jose Antonio Anzar (1833-1854)

 Rev. Valentin Closa: Longest serving Mission pastor, responsible for San Juan Fiesta and Pageant (to raise funds for earthquake damage)

 Friars: “Original Franciscan friars trained at the Apostolic College of San Fernando, Mexico; Zacatecan friars installed during Secularization; Diocesan pastors since 1840.”

 Spanish soldiers: “Leather jackets” and horse-mounted “lancers” stationed at cuartel or barracks that underlies present location of Plaza Hotel.” (rgm)

 Vaqueros: Early Spanish and Mexican period cowboys and mission ranch hands; Mutsun converts comprised the majority of the vaqueros of Old Mission San Juan Bautista in the early days. Originators of the rodeo (roundup), lariat (riata), riding boots, chaps, and related gear.

 Ascencion Solarsano de Cervantes (1855-1930): the last Mutsun Indian buried in SJB cemetery, in 1930. She was a Mutsun healer and instrumental in relating the culture and language to anthropologist John Peabody Harrington.

 The Cemetery (camposanto): situated behind the Main Church, in this consecrated ground where “colonos (colonists), Californios (Mexican era), Mestizos, and Neofitos” (rgm) are buried.” Created in 1805. Is thought to contain 4300 Mutsune Indians and early Spanish, Mexican, and American colonists.”

 Patrick Breen, along with his wife Margaret Breen and their seven children, arrived penniless in San Juan Bautista in 1848 and were taken in by the Mission. The Breen family accompanied the ill-fated Donner Party, which became stranded without supplies in the Sierra Nevada for 111 days during the heavy snows of 1846. Mysteries and Histories

 Weather permitting; every December 21st and 22nd the light of the midwinter solstice illuminates the main altar tabernacle. During this annual event, the sun’s early morning light is projected through the church structure and creates a breathtaking illumination of the sanctuary interior that is not to be missed.

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