April 24, 2018

The Bells of San Juan Capistrano

The Mission San Juan Capistrano is part of the Catholic Parish of San Juan Capistrano.

The Great Stone Church of San Juan Capistrano had four bells hung in the tower.

When the church collapsed in a massive earthquake, in 1812, the four original bells survived, although the two larger bells cracked and split open.  They were hung in a bell wall. These bells are one of the mission's most picturesque features.  Due to the damage caused by the earthquake neither produced clear tones afterwards. Regardless, they were hung in the campanario that went up the following year.

The two largest bells were cast in 1796, the others in 1804.  Recently the two largest bells were recast, and the originals rehung in the ruins of the Great Stone Church.

In 2000 the bells were removed from the bell wall and used for molds to make copies. They were saved after the copies were made, and placed in their current location in 2004. The two large bells on display within the Great Stone Church are now the original bells. The large bells in the bell wall are copies.

Bells were used in the missions to call everyone to the church for services starting at sunrise, to communicate the time of day and to regulate daily life in the community. In the mission era neither the priests nor the Indian neophytes had watches.

The bells used in the early missions were sent by ship with other supplies from New Spain (Mexico) and were considered essential in founding a new mission where they were hung from poles until a church could be built.

The bells show the dates they were casted.

Bells were blessed in a special service.