Being relatively new to the state, it did not take long to learn about the Spanish Missions that mark California along the historic route known as Camino Real.
One of those stops Camino Real is San Juan Bautista in San Benito County bordering Merced County.
The history of California’s Spanish Missions begins in the late 1700s when a Spanish Franciscan Catholic priest was dispatched to the region to convert the people of the area.
This Mission continues to serve the area with weekend Masses, and daily services.
There’s more to this history than just the establishment of a Mission, and thanks to dedicated volunteers and generous donors, parts of that history are being preserved.
The effort included an archaeological dig that uncovered remnants from the period of time when the Mission was started.
The effort continues with a three-dollar tour of the Mission’s main building where volunteer docents help interpret this active piece of California history.
The Mission has displays of a dining room and parlor that recall what life might have been like for people living in the region in the 1800s.
The Church inside the Mission functions like any other Catholic Church with regular Mass offered daily.
Two nuns from the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement live on site. A priest is assigned to the Church to celebrate Mass and serve the community of San Juan Bautista.
According to a Wikipedia entry, the community of San Juan Bautista had a population of 1,862 in the 2010 US Census.
Scenes from the movie Vertigo directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Jimmy Stewart were filmed at the Mission.
The movie includes many sequences filmed on location in California: including the Seventeen Mile Drive at Pebble Beach, San Francisco, and San Juan Bautista.
The bell tower in the movie is much higher than the real tower at the Mission, but Hitchcock took care of that detail through the use of a model bell tower, and some studio re-creation of what a taller structure might look like.
There is a small public display about the on-location filming of Vertigo at the Mission.
There are lots of flowers and trees in the courtyard at the Mission. Many are drought resistant and ideal for the climate.
As with most museums and similar attractions, this tour begins and ends with a gift shop.
For this trip, I took about fifty digital photographs, purchased a refrigerator magnet, and spent three dollars on admission.
I walked away with a greater appreciation for early California/Spanish influenced architecture.
Not bad for a three-dollar tour.
Steve Newvine lives in Merced and travels throughout the state looking for new stories to share.
His latest book is California Back Roads- Stories from the Land of the Palm and the Pine. It is available at Lulu.com