WHEN DO THE SWALLOWS RETURN TO MISSION SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO??

As a photographer, I’m constantly searching for projects that will create a series of memorable images.  I must admit, living in Southern California provides quite a plethora of opportunity.  With the highly anticipated return of the Cliff Swallows of San Juan Capistrano, I realized the California Missions would make an excellent photographic project.

In 1769, Father Junipero Serra began the Construction of the California Missions at the direction of King Charles III of Spain.  King Charles wanted to establish permanent settlements in Alta California to maintain control of the land as other people and countries were beginning to come to the area.  The settled land was to become part of the Spanish territory.  The missions were built near the coast to establish towns, and to be able to trade with ships and people coming to the area.  Building the missions would also provide an opportunity to convert the Indians to Christianity.  The missions were placed approximately one day’s walk from each other, with the entire span of missions along the El Camino Real running 650 miles.  The missions were similar in appearance with each having a quadrangle housing the shops and rooms, a church, and a bell tower.  The church was built to be as tall as the highest tree in the area so that it could be easily seen from a great distance.

Mission Jan Juan Capistrano was first founded on October 19, 1775.  But because of a sudden revolt, soon after the founding the padres and soldiers returned to San Diego. Once things had settled in San Diego, Father Serra personally led a party to re-found Mission San Juan Capistrano on All Saint’s Day, November 1, 1776.

The San Juan Capistrano Mission area became so popular they quickly outgrew their small chapel.  In 1797, construction began on a building that was to be the largest church in California.  It was finished 9 years later in 1806.  Sadly in December, 1812, an earthquake destroyed the church at San Juan Capistrano Mission, killing 40 people including two boys who were ringing the bells at the time. The church was never rebuilt.  But the enormity of the structure can still be witnessed through the ruins that exist as a part of the present day mission.

This is one of those posts where I could have literally shared dozens of images.  But instead, I’ve chosen these few for your review.

The Bell Tower of the Original Bodega

The Eastern Corridor

The Great Stone Church Ruins

The Bodega Bell Tower as viewed through one of the Arches of the Eastern Corridor

The Bell Tower and Dome of the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano

The Courtyard as viewed from the North Corridor

The Great Stone Church Ruins

The Sacred Garden and Bell Wall

The San Juan Mission is probably the most famous of all the California missions.  This is likely due to the cliff swallows of San Juan Capistrano that leave town every year in a swirling mass near the Day of San Juan, which is October 23.  Some 5 months later, the swallows return from their winter vacation spot 6,000 miles south in Goya, Corrientes, Argentina, on or around St. Joseph’s Day, March 19.  They are welcomed back each year by the ringing bells of the old church and a crowd of visitors from all over the world who are in town awaiting their arrival and celebrating with a huge fiesta as well as a parade.

Legend has it that the swallows took refuge in the Mission San Juan Capistrano from an irate innkeeper who destroyed their muddy nests. The swallows return to the old ruined church each spring knowing they will be protected within the mission’s walls. In fact, the city has taken their safety seriously passing an ordinance against destroying their nests.

So-called “scout swallows” precede the main flock each year by a few days but the majority of the small birds usually arrives on the 19th and begins rebuilding the mud nests that cling to the ruins of the old stone church and throughout the Capistrano Valley.

I could easily spend an entire day here learning the history and witnessing the spectacular Spanish architecture.

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~ by photographyfree4all on February 18, 2011.

38 Responses to “WHEN DO THE SWALLOWS RETURN TO MISSION SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO??”

  1. The one and only time in my life that I actually went there… it was swallowed in scaffolding for much needed repairs. Why is that we neglect to go see what is in our own backyards when we have the chance? I am sorry I missed seeing it in real life, but you have done the old mission proud. Thank you for this well done pictorial!~ Lynda

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  2. These are nice. Reminds me of one our vacations, and we visited the Mission in San Juan Capistrano. My camera, was not that good, at the time, the first digital cameras, that was also pretty compact. Did you take any photos inside the chapel itself? Thanks for sharing….I like the bells, and I also like that one you took from the courtyard to the North Corridor. Blessings,

    Elena

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  3. P.S. Did you lighten “The Courtyard as viewed from the North Corridor” to bring out the brick work inside? I ask because the Courtyard looks a bit bleached and I wondered if there is a fix for that. (Recent problem I am facing.) ANYONE? THANKS!

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  4. p.s. I noticed you mentioned, about the earth quake. I don’t remember the date, but when we went it was on that date of the earth quake. A little eerie. To know it was the same date. When we were there. It made you think of those who were lost, and to even say a prayer….

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  5. http://elenaschristianphotography.wordpress.com/

    Hi, I just wanted to let you know, I also created a photography blog. I am a novice. But my goal is to, share my photography here and there. With a Christian theme. Praying it bless you, feel free to sign up, I hope it blesses. Thanks, Elena

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  6. I’ve often asked myself that very question, Lynda! Living in southern California offers so many opportunities – yet at times, I still say “There’s nothing new under the sun to shoot.” And then I realize that’s never the case! Wherever you live, I think you have the same possibilities! I guess we become so familiar with our area that we don’t see those photographic opportunities. But, they’re out there!! Thanks for reminding us all!! Great comment!

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  7. Hi Elena! I did take a few shots inside the chapel. I was trying to be considerate of the people who were there to pray and worship. I didn’t want to intrude into what they were doing! The shots I took were not very good because I never used my flash and the lighting was pretty dark. Thank you for this comment, Elena! I’m glad it reminded you of your visit! 🙂

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  8. Wonderful photos, thanks for sharing. Not as famous but the robins returned to my yard this week. What a welcome sight.
    God bless you.

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  9. Elena, I also have started a blog and I am a Christian if you would like to check it out. http://gwyncurbygodwin.wordpress.com/ Please let me know your blog address?
    Sorry, but I did not know any other way to contact Elena.
    God bless.

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  10. Looks like an amazing place. Do tell me you WILL go back when the swallows make their return? Images 2 and 4 are wonderful!

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  11. Beautiful pictures! I live here in Southern California too but I have never gone to see the San Juan Capistrano Missions. I did tour the Mission in Santa Barbara when we were visiting there. I must put this onmy to do list.

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  12. They may not be as famous, but that’s pretty big Gwyn! Spring won’t be far behind! Thank you for your kind comment here! I’m really happy to read your comments. Thanks!

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  13. You have a great blog, Gwyn. I’ve visited before. I hope Elena stops by – she’ll enjoy it! Certainly no apology needed here! 🙂

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  14. Old buildings like this are very fascinating. Especially considering we don’t even have any that old around here. Funny, how legends spring up around them just like the moss and vines do. I guess it all adds to the attraction.

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  15. I love visiting places like this. I’m hoping on our next visit to California that I’ll have the chance to visit and photograph some of the missions.

    Beautiful photos, as always, Steve. 🙂

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  16. Hi Tracy! I hope to go back, then. I didn’t spend any time in the adjacent Basilica. It’s patterned after the original Old Church that was destroyed by the earthquake. Thank you for your input on these images, Tracy! Always look forward to hearing what you think! 🙂

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  17. Oh you should go, Miss Betty! But, make sure you allow enough time. I thought I could go through it quicker and actually ran out of time. Thanks for stopping by today!! I always appreciate your comments.

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  18. This is an amazing place, Heather! There is so much history that it screams from these buildings! I would love to return because there’s more to capture, Great comments, Heather! Thanks!!

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  19. You should see it, Robin! I love places that present great photographic opportunity, but also contain such history! It’s pretty amazing! Thanks for your comment, Robin! I always look forward to them.

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  20. That is very interesting, Elena! I thought the exact thing when I stepped inside the ruins – the people who lost their lives. Sad!

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  21. I worked with this shot quite a bit because the lighting was so brilliant in the courtyard and so dim in the corridor. And, I had backed into a tiny hallway beyond the corridor cutting even more light out. I actually darkened the highlights to bring out the details that are present in the courtyard. Then, I masked off the foreground and lightened those shadows without changing the courtyard lighting. I may be able to do better with more experimenting, but I don’t know. I did like the framing of this image, so that could draw me back for further editing…we’ll see. Any ideas? Thanks for this comment, Lynda! Great job!

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  22. Those are all amazing shots!! I would love to visit there some day… I enjoy reading your posts and looking at your photos so much! I can’t wait to see more!

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  23. Thank you, Danielle! I hope you can visit one day! Thank you for this kind compliment about my blog! Your comments always encourage me! Thanks!

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  24. Great series of shots! Very informative post. I’ve always wanted to visit there. Maybe one day I’ll make it to the west coast!

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  25. These photos are beautiful! They take me back in time. They make me want to sit and take my mind back in that time era and try to re-create what it would be like to have been there when it was a busy place of activity. I can imagine the sights, sounds and smells that would be present. I love it when photography takes me to another time and place – you’ve captured the sense of this old mission well. Thanks for sharing it with us, Steve.

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  26. Love the 2nd image, the one of the hallway.
    Have you checked out the Fullerton Arboretum?
    I just went there today and took some photos, I think it is a spot you would enjoy.
    http://www.reverencemedia.com/2011/02/21/fullerton-arboretum/

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  27. Hi Car54! Thanks for sharing your comment here. I think many of those same thoughts. What was it really like? I’m sure I could never really imagine how difficult life must have been then. Glad you stopped by today!

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  28. Thanks, Tim! The Fullerton Arboretum is on my list! I was waiting for a little more rain to green everything up a bit more. This weekend may have done the trick! Thanks for adding your link, Tim! It does look like a place I would love to shoot! Check out Tim’s site, folks!

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  29. You should put it on your list, Michael! You won’t be sorry. Thanks for stopping by today!

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  30. I was at the San Juan Capistrano mission a long time ago because of my son’s California Mission project in elementary. These photos bring back memories. Thank you for sharing.

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  31. I think it’s usually a 4th grade project if memory serves me correctly, Ewe! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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  32. I love, love, love that second shot. 🙂

    Marla @ http://www.blueskiesphotoblog.com

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  33. Love those shots. My favourite one would have to be that corridor, but all the rest are beautiful!!!

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  34. Thank you, thank you, thank you, marla! I’m glad you stopped by and left such a nice comment. 🙂

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  35. I do like that one as well, Michael. In fact I’m doing some further editing in an attempt to take the shot back about 100 years, or so. Thanks for your input! 🙂

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  36. Really beautiful photographs. The colors are amazing. Love the view of the Courtyard from the North Corridor 🙂

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  37. Thanks, Petra! I’m really glad you stopped by today! I hope you’ll come back again, soon! 🙂

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  38. […] The Swallows of Capistrano are legendary for their return to the […]

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