Mission San Juan Bautista

UPDATE: It is important to remember that while California Missions have been hailed as places of peace, they also have deep and complicated histories, including slavery, violence, and forced religious conversion.

After securing our apartment and spending time in Disneyland, we headed back north, stopping at Mission San Juan Bautista. I had visited this mission back in 2006 with my dad, but at the time, we could not go inside, and I was eager to revisit the location and step inside the 15th Spanish mission, as well as the site of the climax of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo. In this post you’ll find screencaps from Vertigo intermixed with my own photos, as done similarly with my past Vertigo location posts, which you can read here and here.

I suggest not going any further unless you’ve seen Vertigo!

One night Madeleine goes over to Scottie’s apartment and tells him about a dream she had, describing an old Spanish church with a bell towner, a house with a balcony and a livery stable. Scottie informs her that “it’s all real”, and that the location is Mission San Juan Bautista, and insists upon taking her out to there.

The arcade at San Juan Bautista as it appeared in Vertigo

The arcade today

The two talk, and she sits in one of the carriages in the stable. Time was not on our side, and we did not visit inside the Plaza Hall or stable building (it should be noted that the mission and the buildings across the green are two separate entities, the mission is still operating as a church, while the Plaza Hall and nearby buildings are part of the parks system, and requires additional admission), and sadly it appeared you could not sit in the carriages like Madeleine.

After sharing a kiss, Madeleine runs to the church, insisting there is something she must do.

After looking up at the bell tower, Scottie fears for Madeleine’s life, and runs after her into the church.

Madeleine climbs the fictional bell tower, and Scottie attempts to make the climb, but fails to reach the top just in time to see Madeleine’s body fall and land atop the red tile roof below.

After the incident, Scottie faces trial inside the Plaza Hall, but he is found to have no fault in Madeleine’s death.

But this isn’t the last we see of Mission San Juan Bautista. Soon Judy enters Scottie’s life, and the two begin a relationship, and we, the audience, become privy to Judy’s thoughts, who reveals that she only played the part of Madeleine so that Gavin, Madeleine’s husband, could kill his real wife, and have it appear as if she had flung herself from the tower. Instead of sharing this with Scottie, she allows Scottie to transform her back into Madeleine for his own benefit. One evening Judy puts on a necklace, a necklace that will be her undoing. The necklace of Carlotta, the one seen in her portrait, which Scottie had seen previously.

Scottie begins to put the piece of the twisted puzzle together, and takes Judy to Mission San Juan Bautista, saying there is “one final thing I must do, then I will be free of the past”. Scottie explains to Judy what happened with Madeleine, dragging Judy the entire way.

In the stairwell, Scottie confronts Judy about what really happened, and Judy admits to everything before her fateful misstep off of the tower.

Mission San Juan Bautista hasn’t changed a great deal since Hitchcock filmed here back in 1958, but fans of the film who have never been to the location may notice one very important piece missing, the large, square bell tower stretching over the rooftops. At one time the mission did feature a tall steeple, however it was demolished after a fire. Hitchcock created his bell tower (one that looks nothing like the original steeple) using a combination of matte paintings, models and trick photography.

Those wishing to visiting Mission San Juan Bautista can enjoy the grounds outside the mission for free, but those wanting to go inside, and also enjoy the beautiful gardens the mission has to offer, as well as learn more about the mission’s history, must pay a small $4.00 admission. It should be remembered that the mission in still an operating church, and portions may not be able to be accessed due to events and mass. You can learn more about visiting Mission San Juan Bautista by visiting their website.

In keeping with the Vertigo theme, I chose to wear my Carlotta necklace during our visit.

I also made a kitty friend…

Reflect upon California’s history and Hitchcock’s masterpiece at 406 2nd Street in San Juan Bautista. For further details, please visit Mission San Juan Bautista’s website.

Blouse & Skirt: Buffalo Exchange, Portland, Oregon
Slip: I think Red Light, Portland, Oregon
Shoes (which I know don’t match! But I was on vacation!): Re-Mix, via a local rummage sale!
La Carlotta Necklace: Hollie Gofightly

Leave a Comment!

12 comments on “Mission San Juan Bautista”