Thursday, December 2, 2010

A California History Lesson

Oh MY!!  Another week flying by bringing us closer to Christmas.  And me further away from getting all the items on my list done!!

Earlier this week, my youngest Kiddo began what is a tradition for thousands of 4-5th grade students in California.  The tradition of learning of the history of the 21 missions that are along the El Camino Real, or the Royal Road.  The missions stretch from San Diego to Sonoma.  While the first two missions established (Mission San Diego De Acala, 1769, and Mission San Carlos Borromeo De Carmelo, 1770, were a substantial distance apart, the chain was soon filled in with stations that were only about a day's ride apart.  This allowed the already established missions to supply manpower, livestock and supplies to fledgling colonies. 

Mission San Juan Capistrano was the seventh mission, founded twice; first by Father Lasuen on October 30, 1775, then by Father Serra, who became known as the Father of California, on November 1, 1776 (which makes this mission as old as our country). 

While some of the original brick and adobe has had to be restored, this area is as it was over 200 years ago.

Construction took over 10 years, and it had been in use for only six when the earthquake of 1812 struck, destroying the cross-shaped, elaborate stone church (the largest structure this side of the Mississippi at that time) and killing over 40 worshipers.  Also contributing to the history of the mission were fires, epidemics, droughts and an attack from the pirate Bouchard.

This is just one of the elaborate silver pieces that were used at the mission for worship (the awful lighting and glare would come from this being displayed in a dark room and in a glass case). When the mission was attacked by the pirates, the families of the mission hid the treasures, some being buried, some taken and hidden in their homes, until they thought it was safe to bring them out again. The glare right above Christ's head is actually a bullet hole. There is no record as to how this piece got the hole.  Or the story behind it.  My imagination loves this type of thing!!

This was a "small" chapel that was used for the private worship of the priests and the first followers.  The Golden Alter was made in Barcelona in the mid-1600's and was given as a gift to the mission in 1906.  It was delivered in 10 crates with 396 puzzle pieces!!  No one knew how to put it together.  The Father laid it out in the quadrant and by chance, someone said they had seen an similar alter in their travels.  The alter was  pieced together from a memory.

The dark pillar on the left side of the picture would be the pulpit that the Father had built after the alter was done and he realized he had no place to preach from.  The "crown" over the pulpit is actually a sounding board.  When the priest would stand under it and give his sermon, his voice would bounce off the "crown" and propel to the worshipers.

Notice the different ceiling heights in the first picture.  The area over the seating is lower than the alter area.  It would seem that when the alter was near completion, the workers realized that the height was higher than the current ceiling.  Solution:  raise the roof, literally just inches above the top crest.

 Notice the paintings around the niche.  The natives would paint fresco decorations along the walls and ceilings, using symbols from their own beliefs to make the worship area (and living areas) "beautiful". 

A niche over an outside door painted with a religious symbol.

This is the gate to the courtyard to one of the side doors that leads to the only original room left of the  Great Stone Church. 

Bells across the same courtyard.  These bells are still used today for special occasions.  Bells were very important to the missions. They were the form of communication.  Depending on how they were rung, the community knew when they were called to worship, when there was an attack being launched or other codes.

What is left of the Great Stone Church

This is just off to the right of the church. The bells are the ones seen previously in the courtyard photo.

This is corner wall between the wall that has the bells and the Stone Church wall.

This is the original center quadrant fountain of the mission.  Of course, the quadrant is now a lovely garden, but originally would have been used for different activities needed for daily living. 

My parting shot of the bell tower in the quadrant

I personally love history and found the opportunity to visit this piece of history fascinating!!  I hope you enjoyed a bit of California history!! I would like to acknowledge the book California Missions by Londie Garcia Padelsky.  It is a book I have in my home collection and was used to refresh my memory of some of the history details.


Louisiana Belle said...

Great history lesson! Job well done depicting the architecture, too. I love religious art/artifacts.


Thanks so much for sharing. It's so nice to be able to visit these historic places. I was able to visit San Francisco several years ago and saw some beautiful country while there. Lots of things to see in California. I would love to visit again someday. It is like being on another planet from Tennessee. So very different in so many ways! Lovely place.

Sylvia said...

Starla, Your pictures were beautiful! I am glad you got the chance to visit your missions! I grew up in San Antonio, Texas. There were 7 established missions. That is the ones that still stood. Over time the weather has erroded some of them for lack of use and or card. There may have been more, but I do not think so. We made many trips to see them, the last with my children years ago. It is amazing how much history is in our own areas, a lot of which is never known or acknowledged! thanks for sharing!

kaiandkristi said...

I LOVE it!!! You should be a tour guide for the SJC or do a talk to the kids! Did you guys take a field trip there this year or just go on your own? Beautiful pictures, btw and I learned a few new things too!