The traditional Christian village commmunity is unified by the sound of bells. One unifying experience of living within this community is walking within the call of the bells toward the center of community. I had this experience when growing up in a small New England village. The experience is difficult to recreate in suburban Southern California. For families who attend church, the experience is usually truncated. They drive in a car to a parking lot near the church; then, they walk a few feet to the sanctuary. San Juan Capistrano provides an opportunity to experience this historical community. The historical district of the town is compact. The Mission San Juan Capistrano is nearby. Tracing through and along the historical village is a bicycle and hiking trail, maintained as a city park. The photographs in this article provide views of this unique historical environment.
We walked the center section of the Robert McCollum Bicycle Trail from Oso Road along Camino Capistrano (a parkway that goes directly to the center of the village), through a low-income housing project, along an equestrian center, then skirting Los Rios, a museum village of historical dwellings, and along a flood control channel. The entire trail is about four miles. If you leave the trail to walk along the Camino Capistrano, the parkway takes you past the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano, a modern church building at the northwest corner of the Mission San Juan Capistrano, along the western wall of the Mission, to the village center and Mission entrance. We visited the village on Saturday when the church bells were silent; but I am confident that if you visited on a Sunday about the time of Mass, you could walk into the village to the sounds of bells calling you to worship.
All photographs are thumbnails. Clicking the thumbnails will produce a full-size image within a pop-up window. (Also see the note about quality of displayed images, at bottom of article.)
Here are several photographs of the Trail that runs in the El Camino Real Park.
My Vision of Ruins
One of the phenomenological themes that has guided my vision of archaeological ruins and historical monuments is the intrusion of the willful intent of ancestral generations into our civic and personal lives today. These historical remains erupt into our lives (to use the language of Sartre); they are revelation. The human-made cityscape in which we live is, not simply by definition, the product of intentionality; so that we may say, our intent to act today (for instance, by driving along city streets to a store) is guided by the accumulated physical manifestations of the intentions of historical planners. Normally, the way we experience our own lives is that we are aware of our own intent, but not the historical intent which guides - or structures - our own intent. We tend to be aware of the intent of the past only when we see that intent broken, so to speak, so that we cannot use it. By being museums and no longer functioning as they were originally intended, ruins and monuments reveal the will, intent, plans, and goals of our cultural forebears. History is a philosophy lesson, as Europeans have learned the hard way. Philosophy is a history lesson, too; this lesson is equally difficult to learn. These two lessons are true, whether or not we like them; watch the news from Jerusalem and see for yourself.
In the United States, especially in California, such ruins are rare. Their rarity gives us today the illusion that we live self-sufficiently within our own personal plans and schemes. Careful analysis and self-examination would quickly expose this illusion; but few of us take the time for introspection. The ruins and monuments of San Juan Capistrano might provide revelation of the same insight, if we allow them to do so. I hope the photographs below will illustrate this theme. (The photos are not presented in a particular order. Most of the historical information is from the Mission guide.)
Mission San Juan Capistrano
The Mission was founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1776 for the Spanish Crown, one of a string of mission settlements along the coast. Spain wanted to stake a claim to possession of upper California.
Padres' dormitory and living quarters, constructed, presumably, before 1800.
Chalice Vine, Solandra guttata, West Indies.
Door, windows, chair, patched brick, pavers.
Looking along the columns of the cloister of the southern extension to the East Wing toward the padres' dormitory and living quarters.
Great Stone Church.
Construction was begun in 1797, and completed and dedicated in 1806. An earthquake in 1812 destroyed the church, killing worshippers. I would describe the architecture as Romanesque, albeit with a few more modern decorative elements, for its use of the classical barrel arch, irregular stone construction, and rough simplicity. I have not measured the ground plan dimensions, but I will venture that they are whole-number ratios, though they might include right-triangle ratios (which includes the irrational hypotenuse) obtained from a wood protractor (rather than by numerical calculation). This style (Europe 900AD-1200AD) would have the easiest for the padres to design and the Indians and Indian stone masons to build under their supervision.
Sacred Garden and Bell Wall.
The Garden is adjacent to the west side of the Great Stone Church. The large bells are replicas of the original bells n the Church, recast from their bronze. The small bells were cast in 1804.
Looking into the Garden.
Entrance to the Courtyard, near the vestibule to the Serra Chapel.
Serra Chapel. Completed in 1788, restored in the 1920s.
Looking west along the northern side of the dormitory wing in the Central Courtyard.
Door to a Padre's Dormitory Suite.
Detail of patching texture around the upper window next to the door.
Brickwork and cement patching below the window.
I think the door and details of texture of the entryway provide an appropriate conclusion to our history-philosophy lesson.
(A note about the quality of the images. On some monitors, shadows in the images are displayed as black without detail. Such display is not faithful to the original images and is not intended. On most monitors, the shadows in the photos are not black, but are filled with details that add to the meaning of the image. The likely cause of this problem is the brightness setting of your monitor. Use your monitor settings - usually accessed by buttons on the monitor itself - to set your 'Brightness' setting to maximum or 100%.)