In the middle of a few days hard work in Los Angeles, I managed to escape for 24 hours and visit two places I’ve wanted to see for a while: the Mission founded by Father Junipero Serra in San Juan Capistrano and San Diego Zoo, which I’ll talk about in another post.

San Juan de Capistrano is considered the best mission among all those founded by the Franciscan fathers in California. It was the seventh of 21 missions established in the territory and was founded by Father Junipero Serra, who originally came from Petra Mallorca, where my wife and I have gone through many times on our way to Palma in the last few years.

In a sense, I have a close relationship with the mission, thanks to Father Junipero Serra. Let me explain: on April 2, 1767, by means of a Pragmatic Sanction decreed by Carlos III, the Jesuits were ordered to leave Spain and its colonies. Their assets were confiscated soon afterwards and one of my ancestors, Don José Moñino y Redondo, who was the Criminal Prosecutor in the Court of Castille at the time, played an important part in the story.

As part of his job, he was sent by the King to find out exactly what had happened at the Esquilache Riots. It appears that their objective was to dethrone King Carlos III and replace him with his brother, Luis, a plot in which it also appears beyond doubt that the Jesuits were involved, led by the Florentine Father and General, Lorenzo Ricci. The King was forced to react in a decisive manner and so decided to drive the Jesuits from Spain’s territory.

Once they had been forced to leave, the King, who was still not happy, sent Don José Moñino y Redondo to Rome at the end of 1771 to try to convince Pope Clement XIV to dissolve the order. And, thanks to some very fine diplomacy, he was able to do so in just a few months after arriving in Rome. On July 21, 1773, the Pope issued a Dominus ac Redemtor decree which dissolved the Company of Jesus with immediate effect and, in recognition of his skill in handling the negotiations with the Pop, the King awarded Moñino the title of Count of Floridablanca that same year. And, it just so happens that I am the current Count of Floridablanca.

All of which is fascinating, but what does it have to do with the mission at San Juan Capistrano?

Well, with the expulsion and suppression of the Jesuits, California was left empty of evangelists. At the time when they were driven out of California, the Jesuits were the only representatives of the Catholic Church, and the only substitutes available were a group of Franciscans who were living in Mexico City at the time.

Father Junipero Serra was one of a group of 16 who, on July 14 1767, set sail from the Port of San Blas for Baja California. They arrived in the city of Loreto and, from there, Father Junipero Serra set off overland in 1768 for Alta California, at the head of a herd of cattle, horses, and pigs, while some of his brother monks carried on by ship. Soon afterwards, on July 16 1769, he founded the first mission in San Diego de Alcala. And, on November 1, 1776, he laid the first stone at San Juan Capistrano.


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