The Old Franciscan Missions Of California eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 227 pages of information about The Old Franciscan Missions Of California.





In 1787 Governor Fages reported that San Juan was in a thoroughly prosperous condition; lands were fertile, ministers faithful and zealous, and natives well disposed.  In 1800 the number of neophytes was 1046, horses and cattle 8500, while it had the vast number of 17,000 sheep.  Crops were 6300 bushels, and in 1797 the presidios of Santa Barbara and San Diego owed San Juan Mission over $6000 for supplies furnished.  In 1794 two large adobe granaries with tile roofs, and forty houses for neophytes were built.  In February, 1797, work was begun on the church, the remains of which are now to be seen.  It is in the form of a Roman cross, ninety feet wide and a hundred and eighty feet long, and was planned by Fray Gorgonio.  It was probably the finest of all the California Mission structures.  Built of quarried stone, with arched roof of the same material and a lofty tower adorning its fachada, it justifies the remark that “it could not be duplicated to-day under $100,000.”

The consecration of the beautiful new church took place, September 7, 1806.  President Tapis was aided by padres from many Missions, and the scene was made gorgeous and brilliant by the presence of Governor Arrillaga and his staff, with many soldiers from San Diego and Santa Barbara.

The following day another mass was said and sermon preached, and on the 9th the bones of Padre Vicente Fuster were transferred to their final resting-place within the altar of the new church.  A solemn requiem mass was chanted, thus adding to the solemnity of the occasion.

The church itself originally had seven domes.  Only two now remain.  In the earthquake of 1812, when the tower fell, one of the domes was crushed, but the others remained fairly solid and intact until the sixties of the last century, when, with a zeal that outran all discretion, and that the fool-killer should have been permitted to restrain, they were blown up with gunpowder by mistaken friends who expected to rebuild the church with the same material, but never did so.

This earthquake of 1812 was felt almost the whole length of the Mission chain, and it did much damage.  It occurred on Sunday morning December 8.  At San Juan a number of neophytes were at morning mass; the day had opened with intense sultriness and heaviness; the air was hot and seemed charged with electricity.  Suddenly a shock was felt.  All were alarmed, but, devoted to his high office, the padre began again the solemn words, when, suddenly, the second shock came and sent the great tower crashing down upon one of the domes or vaults, and in a moment the whole mass of masonry came down upon the congregation.  Thirty-nine were buried in the next two days, and four were taken out of the ruins later.  The officiating priest escaped, as by a miracle, through the sacristy.

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The Old Franciscan Missions Of California from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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