Old Mission San Juan Bautista
June 24, 1797
This mission has a special designation as the Mission of Music and the large, grassy plaza in front of the Church is an harmonious setting for celebrations and festivities. As a cornerstone of the town of San Juan Bautista, it is a gathering spot much like it was hundreds of years ago.
It’s situated at the crossroads of the El Camino Real, the Royal Road, and El Camino Viejo, the Old Road where, when it was founded, the Coastanoan village of Popeloutchom was located. The clanging of the nine mission bells, used to communicate and regulate daily life for the more than 1,200 living in and working throughout its 36 acres, was a consistent call to come together.
As a California State Park, the grounds still bring people together to explore the original plaza and some 30 other historic buildings that include an hotel, blacksmith shop, stable, the original mission nunnery and soldier’s barracks found near the mission.
Step inside the Church and imagine the sweet-sounding voices of the renowned Native American boys choir that used to perform under the guidance of Fr. Estevan Tapis. His handwritten choir books are on view in one of the exhibits.
Take a walk through the grounds and listen for the tinkling of the El Rio del Pajaro river, the source of water for the orchards, vineyards, gardens and mill. Upwards of 90,000 bushels of wheat, barley, corn, beans and peas were grown between 1798 and 1832. The rhythm of work at the mission was arduous, but it sustained this congregation.
The music of the past resonates in the fellowship of today’s community.