The Great Stone Church - San Juan Capistrano, California
N 33° 30.137 W 117° 39.726
11S E 438501 N 3707168
Quick Description: Located on the grounds of the Mission San Juan Capistrano, the "Great Stone Church" was dubbed by architects as the "American Acropolis" in reference to its classical Greco-Roman style. Tragically 42 native worshipers were killed in the collapse.
Location: California, United States
Date Posted: 7/4/2008 4:57:28 PM
Waymark Code: WM4446
The Great Stone Church was virtually destroyed in an earthquake in 1812, killing 42 Native American worshipers. Over the years the decision was made to preserve the remnants 'as is' in memory of these people. Eventually a new church, The Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano, was built in 1984 "in the spirit and likeness" of the "Great Stone Church." Pope John Paul II conferred the rank of Minor Basilica to this facility on February 14, 2000.
From Wikipedia - "The most important and pretentious building of the whole Mission period..." was modeled after the Byzantine cathedrals scattered throughout Europe and Western Asia.
Work was begun on "The Great Stone Church" (the only chapel building in Alta California not constructed out of adobe) on February 2, 1797. It was laid out in the shape of a cross, measuring 180 feet (55 m) long by 40 feet (12 m) wide with 50-foot (15 m) high walls, and included a 120-foot (37 m) tall campanile (bell tower) located adjacent to the main entrance. Local legend has it that the tower could be seen for ten miles (16 km) or more, and that the bells could be heard from even farther away. The sandstone building sat on a foundation seven feet thick. Construction efforts required the participation of the entire neophyte population. Stones were quarried from gullies and creek beds up to six miles (10 km) away and transported in carts (carretas) drawn by oxen, carried by hand, and even dragged to the building site. Limestone was crushed into a powder on the Mission grounds to create a mortar that was more erosion-resistant than the actual stones. On the afternoon of November 22, 1800 tremors from the 6.5-magnitude San Diego Earthquake cracked the walls of the rising edifice, necessitating that repair work be performed. Unfortunately, Señor Aguilár died six years into the project; his work was carried on by the padres and their charges, who made their best attempts to emulate the existing construction. Lacking the skills of a master mason, however, led to irregular walls and necessitated the addition of a seventh roof dome. The church was finally completed in 1806, and blessed by Fray Estévan Tapís on the evening of September 7; a two-day long fiesta followed. The sanctuary floors were paved with diamond-shaped tiles, and brick-lined niches displayed the statues of various saints. It was by all accounts the most magnificent in all of California and a three-day feast was held in celebration of this monumental achievement. Tragedy struck the settlement when on the morning of December 8, 1812 (the "Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin") a series of massive earthquakes shook Southern California during the first Sunday service. The 7.0-magnitude Wrightwood Earthquake racked the doors to the church, pinning them shut. When the ground finally stopped shaking, the bulk of the nave had come crashing down, and the bell tower was completely obliterated. Forty native worshippers who were attending mass and two boys who had been ringing the bells in the tower were buried under the rubble and lost their lives, and were subsequently interred in the Mission cemetery. This was the second major setback the outpost had suffered, and followed severe storms and flooding that had damaged Mission buildings and ruined crops earlier in the year.
Fee: Yes - $9.00 for adults
Open daily 8:30 am to 5:00 pm
Related URL: [Web Link]
Original photographs showing additional views of the Ruin/Remnant or even just its current condition are encouraged. Please describe your visit, especially if no additional photos are available. Did you like the Ruin or Remnant? What prompted you to see the Ruin or Remnant?