Mission San Juan Bautista


Mission San Juan Bautista is the fifteenth and largest of the 21 California Missions,with the only original Spanish Plaza remaining in the state.  The Mission and Convent “convento” were founded by Father Fermín Francisco de Lasuėn on June 24, 1797. Its location was chosen in the center of El Camino Real (The Royal Road), a historical trail that linked California’s Spanish missions.  The present church was built during the period of 1803-1812 and was dedicated on June 23, 1812. It replaced the much smaller adobe chapel of 1797-98 built by Ygnacio Barrera, second Carpenter of the frigate Concepción a 22-gun Spanish warship.

Interior completion of the church continued through 1817 when the floor was tiled and the main altar and reredos which holds the six statues were completed by Thomas Doak, an American sailor who jumped ship in Monterey. He painted the reredos in exchange for room and board.

The cemetery on the north side of the church contains the remains of over 4,000 Christian Native Americans and Europeans. Many American and Spanish pioneer settlers,  Mutsun, Yokut, and Miwok Indians are buried in the Mission Cemetery, first consecrated in 1811.

The church was secularized in 1835 when much of the mission property was seized by the Mexican government. In 1895, the present mission buildings and 55 acres were given back to the Church by Federal decree of the United States government.

The church, badly ruined by the elements after secularization, was further seriously damaged by the earthquake of 1906. A portion of the walls of the church and convent are original. Renovations of various sections of the building have been undertaken throughout the years including repairs of the roof and adobe walls. The Old Mission San Juan Bautista is still an active parish church and has had an unbroken succession of pastors since its founding on June 24, 1797.