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.
The fountain was built in 1808 along with the adjacent stone lavanderia, or laundromat, which was used by the Native Americans.
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.
The Cemetery Garden dates from 1789 to the present. It contains the burial sites of early Santa Barbara settlers and Native Americans.
The Skull Carvings placed over the church doors were used to indicate a cemetery location.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After leaving the Mission, I explore the Botanical Gardens in Santa Barbara.