Mission San Juan Capistrano is a Spanish mission in San Juan Capistrano, Orange County, California. Founded November 1, 1776 in colonial Las Californias by Spanish Catholic missionaries of the Franciscan Order, it was named for Saint John of Capistrano. The Spanish Colonial Baroque style church was located in the Alta California province of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. The Mission was secularized by the Mexican government in 1833, and returned to the Roman Catholic Church by the American government in 1865. The mission was damaged over the years by a number of natural disasters, but restoration and renovation efforts date from around 1910.
The mission was founded in 1776, by the Spanish Catholics of the Franciscan Order. Named for Saint John of Capistrano, a 14th-century theologian and "warrior priest" who resided in the Abruzzo region of Italy, San Juan Capistrano has the distinction of being home to the oldest building in California still in use, a chapel built in 1782. "Father Serra's Church", also known as "Serra's Chapel", is the only extant structure where it has been documented that Junipero Serra celebrated Mass. The mission is one of the best known in Alta California, and one of the few to have actually been founded twice – the others being Mission San Gabriel Arcángel and Mission La Purísima Concepción. The site was originally consecrated on October 30, 1775, by Fermín Lasuén, but was quickly abandoned due to unrest among the indigenous population in San Diego.
The success of the settlement's population is evident in its historical records. Prior to the arrival of the missionaries, some 550 indigenous Acjachemen people lived in this area of their homeland. By 1790, the number of Indian reductions had grown to 700 Mission Indians, and just six years later nearly 1,000 "neophytes" (recent converts) lived in or around the Mission compound. Baptisms in that year alone numbered 1,649 out of the none total 4,639 people converted between 1776 and 1847.