The first parish in California was a small church built of adobe in San Jose. Over time, it was rebuilt after earthquakes and fires and eventually became the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph in downtown San Jose.
The story goes that at some point, Spain, which had taken control of the Ohlone land that is now San Jose, shipped over a church door to be used by the San Jose parish in some capacity. The door had come from a 12th century medieval church in Europe.
When it was decided to build a second church location in San Jose, it was constructed in 1872, called St. Patrick parish, and used that medieval door that Spain had sent over for the entrance. That church also eventually suffered from various earthquakes and fires so that it is now a newer building and called Our Lady of La Vang Parish in downtown San Jose.
The 1906 earthquake, however, destroyed the original church building, among many other buildings in the area. That’s when a San Jose resident named Paul Mason took the old door from the rubble and debris of the St. Patrick church.
Paul Mason had married the oldest daughter of his business partner, Charles Lefranc. Lefranc had created the first winery in California using French grapes instead of the Spanish grapes that the missionaries had brought over and spread as they colonized California. That first French style grape winery is now a park in San Jose, California. Back to 1906… The big earthquake had also damaged the wine cellar that Paul Mason had at his winery in the hills of Saratoga overlooking San Jose. When the new wine cellar building opened back up in 1907, it had some nice old doors from the 12th century.
Lefranc and Mason went on to become well known winemakers who helped to develop the California wine business. While the San Jose winery that Lefranc had started is now a park in a residential neighborhood, the winery that Mason opened in the hills of Saratoga stands today and is known as the Mountain Winery. It is a beautiful place where concerts and weddings and special events are held. When you look at the stage, with the old stone wine cellar building on it as a backdrop, and you see that door that famous musicians use to walk out on to the stage, you are looking at a very old door. It is a door that once hung at the St. Patrick church, and traveled by ship, and had hung in Europe, having been touched by unknown numbers of people in churches and on stage and in life, since it was made in the 1100’s. That is a pretty neat door.
I was very excited to touch it. If you end up at the Mountain Winery, I highly recommend noticing the old door on the stage and thinking about its history for a bit.