Mission San Juan Capistrano’s oldest tradition is the ringing of the historic bells. This tradition is performed by a chosen few. The official bell ringer positions have only been occupied by a handful of men, since the late 1800s. The three men who carry out this important ritual today are Michael Gastelum, Nathan Banda and Rafael Gutierrez. Together they bring history to life by ringing the bells on designated feast days, holidays and community celebrations.

bell ringer caponights

Four bells were originally cast for Mission San Juan Capistrano and each is named after a Saint (from largest to smallest these names are San Vincente, San Juan, San Antonio, and San Rafael). With the earthquake of 1812 and the collapse of the bell tower, they were relocated to a bell wall, or Campanario. However, the two largest bells, having sustained major damage in the towers collapse, would never ring the same way again.

Today, the original two largest bells (San Vicente and San Juan) hang in the footprint of the bell tower of the ruins of the Great Stone Church were they once hung. On the Bell Wall are two replica large bells, and the original two small bells (San Antonio and San Rafael) which are still rung today.

The historic bells ring every year on these dates:

· March 19 Feast Day of St. Joseph

· July 1 Feast Day of St. Serra

· September 11 Patriot’s Day

· September 17 Constitution Day

· September 23 St. Serra’s Canonization Day

· October 23 Feast Day of St. John of Capistrano

· November 1 Founder’s Day

· November 24 St. Serra’s Birthday

· December 8 Day of Remembrance, honoring the victims of the 1812 earthquake.

And also 7 times each day at 9:00 a.m. to honor the legacy of its founder St. Junípero Serra, who founded Mission San Juan Capistrano as the 7th of his 9 California missions. For more information, please visit our calendar.