San Juan Capistrano is Orange County's oldest community. It's the birthplace of Orange County and home to its oldest traditions. It has its swallows, history, legends, storybook heroes, and beautiful archeological monuments. Most of that history is wrapped up and epitomized by our living historic landmarks, the most beautiful and best known of the California missions, old Mission San Juan Capistrano.
You can visualize Mission San Juan Capistrano as a work of art with its majestic ruins of the Great Stone Church standing in recent solitude attesting to an era long past. You can see it walking along ancient cloisters amid the time-softened beauty of old adobe buildings. Sitting in the cool shade of the padres; garden alongside an old fountain, you can look up at the bell wall with its four crusty bells hanging as silent sentinels, their bronze tongues no longer clanging to the touch of an ancient band. You can feel the serenity behind massive walls which still shut out the noisy world and preserve the peach within, encircling the patio in the tradition of a classical Greco-Roman peristyle.
Mission gardens, renown for their beauty, compliment the functional, artistic simplicity of its buildings with rich, redolent flowers. Red bougainvillea spills over a lovely arch on the main corridor, bright water lilies float languidly on the surface of an old Moorish fountain in the center of the patio. Flowering trees and shrubs brought by ships from distant gardens of the world fill the Mission in a manner reminiscent of the famous gardens of Spain. Those brooding ruins, those shaded walls, those time-worn pathways and brightly colored gardens are what made Mission San Juan Capistrano the most often portrayed structure in America, painted by artists the world over.