The jewel of California's historic string of Franciscan missions..
Founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1776, the seventh of 21 Franciscan missions was home to Juaneno Indians, priests and a few Spanish soldiers. In 1821, the Mexicans expelled the Franciscans and the mission fell into decay. The restoration that began in 1895 continues to this day, as the mission has become both historical treasure and community center. Missions are at their best during pageants, and Capistrano hosts several great ones. Each March, the return of the swallows from Argentina is celebrated, where historically, the birds favored the mission because the adobe structure provided the mud, straw and water they needed to build their nests. In October, there's a Pirate Festival, an elaborately costumed re-creation of an 1818 raid. The second Saturday of every month is Living History Day, a family favorite. On weekend nights in the warmer months, big bands swing in the courtyard.