So I am a HUGE Anne Rice fan, the writer of Interview with a Vampire; I have lost count of how many books of hers I’ve read. I love her writing style and how she sweeps you up into a historical time and place with convincingly real characters. Recently I read one of her non-vampire books, Angel Time, in which a contract killer goes back in time to medieval England. But the reason I am writing about this book here is because the killer falls in love with the Mission at San Juan Capistrano.
Crazy enough, I stumbled upon this book shortly after we had visited the very same mission while in California for Thanksgiving and Anne Rice’s rich descriptions immediately brought me back. So if you are not into vampire stories but love the Middle Ages and religious history, this is a fantastic book for you! In this blog post I am going to match some of the gorgeous writing from the book with our actual photos from our trip, but this is certainly no replacement for reading the book yourself AND visiting this California mission!
I liked the beamed ceiling of the Serra Chapel, and its darkly painted walls. I felt the calm in the quality of gloom inside it, the glimmer of the gold retablo at the far end of it – the golden framework that was behind the altar and fitted with statues and saints. … I loved the red sanctuary light burning to the left of the tabernacle. … The Blessed Sacrament was in it. And the Blessed Sacrament, no matter what I believed, meant ‘real.’
At Capistrano, I roamed the immense square garden, the open cloisters, and visited the narrow dim Serra Chapel – the oldest consecrated Catholic chapel in the state of California. … I loved the chapel. I loved that it was the only known sanctuary on the whole coast in which Blessed Junipero Serra, the great Franciscan, had actually said Mass. He might have said Mass in many another Mission chapel. In fact surely he had. But this was the only one about which everyone was certain.
…I’d spent an unusually long time walking about the enormous garden. … Never have I seen so many kinds of flowers in one place… and you could walk right through the heart of this on any of the many broad and comfortable newly paved paths. … I’d taken my time in the enclosing cloisters, loving the ancient and uneven stone floors. I’d enjoy looking out at the world from under the arches. Round arches had always filled me with a sense of peace. Round arches defined the Mission…
It gave me special pleasure at Capistrano that the layout of the Mission was an ancient monastic design to be found in monasteries all over the world…with its arches and its neatly laid out paths, and it’s inevitable flowers. … Throughout history monks had laid out this plan again and again as if the very bricks and mortar could somehow stave of an evil world, and keep them and the books they wrote safe forever.
I stood for a long time in the hulking shell of the great ruined church of Capistrano. … An earthquake in 1812 had destroyed it, and what remained was a high gaping and roofless sanctuary of empty niches and daunting size. I stared at the random chunks of brick and cement wall scattered here and there, as if they had some meaning for me…