Beauty Lies Among the Ruins

Originally published here
Located in San Juan Capistrano in Orange County, California, the ruins of Mission San Juan Capistrano are a gem to behold. The 7th of 21 California missions, it was one of the best known Alta California missions. Father Junipero Serra founded the mission on All Saints’ Day, November 1, 1776. Father Serra’s Chapel, built in 1778, is the oldest building in California still in use. Inside the peaceful room, people celebrate mass every morning at 7.

A tiny flower sits on the lip of the fountain in the Sacred Garden, a splash of color in the shadows. Trickling water is the only sound you can hear in the late afternoon.

The Great Stone Church is one of the major draws for sightseers. Construction began in 1797 and took nine years to complete. On December 8, 1812 an earthquake caused the walls and bell tower to collapse during mass. It is fascinating to imagine the grandness of the original structure, as it nearly swallows you up the closer you get to the high ceiling.

Adjacent to the old church sits the Bell Wall. Four bells, two small and two large, tolled at mealtimes and at the passing of San Juan Capistrano residents. The large bells are recast from the bells that were lost during the 1812 earthquake while the small bells date to 1804.

Inside the Central Courtyard, the Mission’s men and women would occupy their time with activities like spinning, weaving and leather crafts. Today it is a resting place for visitors to enjoy the flora and architecture, as well as the koi in the pond.

Esther Williams is a California Impressionist artist who has been painting the Mission for eight years. For 40 years she has been perfecting her craft, and finds the Mission an attractive subject because of its spirituality, historical value, and beauty.

Williams likes to paint the koi at the Moore style Fountain of the Four Evangelists, though she finds it a challenge to capture the light on the canvas with evening approaching. She dips her brush into the white paint to add highlights to the fish and the ripples in her painting before leaving.

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