the old mission santa barbara

Friday, January 10:  On my way back to Los Angeles, after spending the night in Arroyo Grande, I stop at the Old Mission Santa Barbara.  Father Junipero Serra, a Franciscan missionary, made California history in 1769 when he founded Mission San Diego de Aleala.  During the next 54 years, the Spanish padres established a chain of 21 missions in California to convert Native Americans, specifically the Chumash Indians, to Christianity.  The missions stretched along the coast from San Diego to Sonoma,  Apparently, each mission along the chain was meant to be one day’s walk from the next closest mission.

Santa Barbara was the 10th mission founded, and the first of nine missions founded by Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, who became president of the missions in 1785.  Santa Barbara is one of the only missions that wasn’t abandoned.

Old Mission Santa Barbara
Old Mission Santa Barbara

The fountain was built in 1808 along with the adjacent stone lavanderia, or laundromat, which was used by the Native Americans.

Fountain and the stone church of 1820
Fountain and the stone church of 1820
Window at Santa Barbara
Window at Santa Barbara

The Sacred Garden was originally used as a work area for the Native Americans to learn building trades.  The surrounding buildings were used as workshops.

Succulents at Santa Barbara
Succulents at Santa Barbara
succulents
succulents
succulents
succulents
succulent and mission arches
succulent and mission arches
the mission
the mission
cacti
cacti

The Cemetery Garden dates from 1789 to the present.  It contains the burial sites of early Santa Barbara settlers and Native Americans.

The mission gardens and cross
The mission gardens and cross
graves in the Mission garden
graves in the Mission garden
Memorial at Santa Barbara Mission
Memorial at Santa Barbara Mission
dried flowers on the memorial
dried flowers on the memorial
ficus tree in the Mission gardens
ficus tree in the Mission gardens

The Skull Carvings placed over the church doors were used to indicate a cemetery location.

skull carvings over the church doors
skull carvings over the church doors

The Church’s architecture design was taken from The Ten Books of Architecture, written by the Roman architect Vitruvius around 27 B.C.   The artwork displayed is from Mexican artists of the 18th and 19th century.

the original interior of the church
the original interior of the church
interior of the church
interior of the church
inside the church
inside the church
Stone work and wall paintings
Stone work and wall paintings

Economic incentives and curiosity were some of the factors that led to the Chumash joining the commune-like missions.  In 1834, the Mexican government secularized the mission, stripping it of its self-sufficiency, and placed the Chumash under civil jurisdiction, leading the buildings and culture to deteriorate.  Th Mission was returned to the Franciscans in 1839.  The Mexican governor then confiscated the land and the mission was sold.  Missionaries were allowed to continue their services.

At different times the mission buildings have been used as a school for boys and as a seminary for those entering the priesthood.

Interior of Old Mission Santa Barbara church
Interior of Old Mission Santa Barbara church

President Abraham Lincoln returned the Mission to the Church in 1865, after California became part of the United States.  The Mission continues to thrive today under the ownership and direction of the Franciscan Friars.

painted walls in the interior of the church
painted walls in the interior of the church
looking into the Sacred Garden
looking into the Sacred Garden

The present day museum rooms were originally used as living quarters for missionaries and their guests.  Today the rooms display a historical collection of artifacts, most of which are dated from the early mission period.

original stars from the Mission
original stars from the Mission
historical artifacts in the museum
historical artifacts in the museum
vestments
vestments

The original church building was built of adobe, but was expanded as the converts grew.  The present church, the fourth and grandest, was completed and dedicated in 1820 after the third was destroyed by the 1812 earthquake.  Another large earthquake in 1925 caused extensive damage to the church and friary.  Restoration was completed in 1927 and the bell towers reinforced in 1953.

the stone church of 1820 with its famous twin bell towers
the stone church of 1820 with its famous twin bell towers

After leaving the Mission, I explore the Botanical Gardens in Santa Barbara.

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30 thoughts on “the old mission santa barbara

  1. Cathy, I have been to the Santa Barbara Mission and know how much time you spent writing this post. My sincere congratulations on a well researched, well written, well illustrated post. 😉

      1. We could Cathy but it would mean we’d have to walk along busy roads, and that is really not pleasant. We did it once in Southern CA: it was noisy – cars were whipping by, and there was no shade. (I much prefer walking on paths in the forest).

      2. Oh no! That wouldn’t be fun, Rosie. Yes, I’d prefer to walk in the forest too. I don’t want to walk along busy highways. Too bad they didn’t keep some kinds of trails between the missions. 😦

      3. I went to the Mission Church in San Gabriel yesterday – with a friend who has visited ALL the missions. [San Gabriel Arcangel is the 4th mission – founded in 1771]

  2. Your opening photos of the fountain and the red hot pokers are superb, Cathy! What a lovely, peaceful place. I could curl up in those gardens and just purr 🙂 Don’t you just miss that heat!
    A wonderful post, Cathy. I love it!

    1. Thanks Jo. I didn’t know those were red hot pokers, but I know I can always count on the gardeners to set me straight. Those gardens were very inviting, it turned out. Much more so than the Botanical Garden, which was all dried up. Wait till you see the garden at San Buenaventura, the only other mission I visited on my trip. Today in Virginia is a sunny day, but only 20 degrees F so far. I am missing the heat, but not the extremes. 🙂 xxx

    2. Oops can I chime in here? They’re not red hot pokers, though I can see why you’d think that, they are actually aloe flowers. And as you say Jo, beautifully photographed. Jude xx

  3. Totally fascinating and gorgeous. We have several friends here in Cuenca who are from Santa Barbara. Yet another place in California I haven’t been. Well done, my friend.

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

  4. Well, as you know Cathy, this is one mission I didn’t get to go inside on my visit so I thank you for showing me what it is like with your wonderful photos. You have captured the very details I would have been drawn to like the old star, the vestments, the painted walls, the wrought-iron and that lovely image of the faded flowers on the memorial and of course the fountain and flowers. Thank you dear friend for taking me there with you.
    Jude xx

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed seeing the one mission you missed through my visit, Jude. That makes me very happy. I think you and I always do notice the same things, as you said before, our pictures are often similar. Great minds think alike!! 🙂

    1. I know, Annette, the East Coast and West Coast of America are really like two different countries! I love those aloe vera plants, and I should have known that’s what they were as I saw the yellow version in Oman. I just didn’t put two and two together. I hope your talk on Bali goes well this weekend. It’s probably unlikely I can make it, but I would sure love to come. 🙂

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