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grouch | all galleries >> Galleries >> San Juan Bautista - Dec. 4, 2005 > Mission Again
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Mission Again

The Mission
The buildings that face San Juan Bautista's central plaza represent several periods of California history. The mission, founded in 1797, is the oldest; it was located here by Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuen because there were many Indians in the area, and because it was about a day's walk from either Mission Santa Clara or Mission San Carlos Borromeo at Carmel. Excellent soil and a good water supply, as well as timber, rock and other building materials were available nearby.

At one time some 1,200 Indians lived and worked at this mission, and more than 4,300 Indians are buried in the old cemetery beside the northeast wall of the mission church, along with a number of Spanish Californians. The church itself, the largest of its kind in California, was started in 1803 and, despite damage from numerous earthquakes, has been in continuous use since July 1, 1812. The altar wall was painted by Thomas Doak, a sailor who left his ship and is said to have been the first U.S. citizen to settle in Spanish California.

Today part of the mission can be toured, and historical artifacts and exhibits are on display. The buildings still belong to the Catholic Church and therefore are not, strictly speaking, part of San Juan Bautista State Historic Park. Small donations by visitors are used to offset the cost of keeping the mission open to the public.

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