The Missions: Number 15

Located between modern San Jose and Salinas, Mission San Juan Bautista, named for St. John the Baptist, was founded in June 1797 by Father Fermin de Lasuen as the 15th mission, which in time contained the largest California mission church.  Situated at the crossroads of El Camino Real and El Camino Viejo at Pacheco Pass, near an Indian village in the land of the Mutsun tribelet of the Coastanoan people, the mission   drew significant numbers of Yokut Indians in the 1820s.   From his arrival there in 1808, Father Felipe del Arroyo de la Cuesta, a cheerful, witty, self-sacrificing missionary acknowledged as a scholar, linguist, inventor, clock maker, and talented singer and composer, served as its head padre for 25 years. Ample water from El Rio del Pajaro fed the mission and its orchards, vineyards, gardens and various mills. Some 50 head of cattle were slaughtered weekly to feed the mission community. The present church—which replaced a much smaller adobe chapel erected 1797–98—was dedicated on June 23, 1812, and has been in continuous use since. San Juan Batista had a renowned Indian boys choir developed by Father Estévan Tapis, after his arrival in 1812. Secularized in 1835, the mission was returned to the Catholic Church in 1863. The small chapel and original courtyard of the Carmichael Presbyterian Church in Carmichael, California, were modeled after the design of San Juan Bautista, and the mission was featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Vertigo. Each December the mission church is opened to the public for the annual midwinter solstice illumination of the main alter.

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