Old Mission Santa Barbara:
The only mission continuously operated by the Franciscans since its founding. This major mission has a distinctive church with a Neoclassical facade, a beautiful Moorish fountain, well-tended gardens, and a large museum. The only restored California Presidio is located in downtown Santa Barbara.
December 4, 1786 - The 10th California Mission
Active Roman Catholic Church owned and operated by the Franciscans of the Santa Barbara Province.
Presidio: - a fortified military settlement (in Spain and Spanish America)
Few buildings define the Spanish heritage of our nation like the chain of 21 California missions established throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries. Their beauty, stature and history help shape our understanding of California's evolution and its story of Native American occupation, Spanish colonization, Mexican independence, and eventual statehood.
First established in 1786 as the 10th in the mission chain, the Santa Barbara Mission, a National Historic Landmark, is one of the most sophisticated and classically proportioned missions of the original 21. The Santa Barbara mission church, completed in 1820, is the only original mission church to survive unaltered into the 20th century. Its historic sanctuary light has never been extinguished. Based on the form of a Roman Ionic temple, the church is immense, with stunning proportions and extraordinary architectural design that have led it to be titled the "Queen of the Missions."
Visitors to the Santa Barbara Mission can explore the church as well as the other mission buildings and their associated historic structures. Among these are the original cemetery and mausoleum, ruins of the mission's extensive aqueduct system, several tanning vats, and 10 acres of landscaped gardens. A museum, guided tours, and an archive-library all help educate curious visitors, school groups, and scholars alike.
Before the Spanish arrived in Northern California, numerous American Indian tribes populated the west coast. The Spanish originally established the Santa Barbara Mission to make contact with the Chumash people—California natives who lived along the coast between Malibu and San Luis Obispo. The Chumash were skilled artisans, hunters, gatherers, and seafarers, but had no formal agricultural system. When Padre Fermin de Francisco de Lasuen first started the Santa Barbara mission in 1786, he aimed to bring both religious and sustainable farming practices to the native population.
Three adobe churches:
Constructed by 1787, the first mission church at Santa Barbara was of logs with a thatched grass roof. It was rudimentary and soon required replacement in 1789. As the mission grew, so did the scale and quality of its church building. The church that dated from 1794 was constructed from adobe and tile.
The fourth and present church was conceived after the great earthquake of 1812 completely ruined the previous adobe version. In 1815 construction of the grand new church began. Converted natives accomplished most of the labor under the guidance of master stonemason Antonio Ramirez. The new stone church was essentially complete by 1820, and its classical-inspired facade was one of the finest works of architecture in California at the time.
The church was immense at 179 feet long and 38 feet wide (its interior contained six chapels.) The main walls were made of local sandstone and the exterior had heavy buttresses for support. Two symmetrical towers adorned the facade along with classical elements such as Ionic pilasters, an entablature, and pediment. In addition to the church, the Santa Barbara Mission also consisted of housing for the priests, workshop space, storehouses, and hundreds of small adobe huts for native housing.
Throughout the early 1800s:
Life at the mission revolved around agricultural pursuits as well as religion. Thousands of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, mules and horses thrived on the mission's land. The Franciscans and converted tribes-people tended crops of wheat, barley, corn, beans, peas, oranges, and olives. As early as 1807, an impressive aqueduct system was implemented that included a dam across the nearby Pedregoso creek. Water was diverted into a large settling tank for filtration and then collected in a stonewalled reservoir 500 feet from the mission church. A fountain and a long laundry trough sprang from the reservoir by 1808. The fountain and reservoir are still intact just outside the church today.
In 1834, after Mexico achieved independence, new law dictated the secularization of the missions, including the one at Santa Barbara. For the other 20 Spanish missions, secularization led to division of land, abandonment of buildings and ultimately disrepair and severe ruin. The Santa Barbara Mission, however, managed to escape this type of neglect and decay. Although its buildings and lands were sold, the Franciscan friars were allowed to stay and occupy the mission. It soon became the Franciscan capital of California, and in 1842, California's first bishop arrived at the site to establish the seat of his diocese. By 1853, the church had founded a Franciscan missionary college, and while the other 20 missions languished in various states of abandonment, the Santa Barbara mission thrived. In 1865, President Lincoln returned the mission's buildings and 283 acres of its land to the Catholic Church. While several of its buildings had been altered over the years, the mission church itself remained essentially the same as the day it was constructed.
The church survived remarkably intact until tragedy struck in 1925 when a violent earthquake shook southern California. The church suffered severe damage including the complete collapse of the eastern tower. Interior fixtures, furnishings and art were mangled by falling stone from the church's own walls. Luckily, the building's seven massive buttresses held fast, and much of the exterior remained standing. Since the church had been carefully documented, a complete restoration was possible. The entire building had been reconstructed, using mostly original stone, by 1927. The church sustained only one other major renovation project, when, in 1950, the settling of the building caused dangerous cracking in the towers. The damage required the dismantling of entire facade, including the two towers, and its reconstruction on new, solid foundations.
- 10th Mission
- Often called "Queen of the Missions", first done by an early 20th century Franciscan
- Founded on 12/4/1786 by Fermin Lasuen, Father Serra's successor as Mission President
- Originally scheduled to open four years earlier by Serra before delays
- Became headquarters of all the missions succeeding Carmel
- Santa Barbara housed first California bishop: Francisco Garcia Diego de Moreno – installed in 1842
- Mission Santa Barbara enjoyed the status of a "pro-cathedral church"
- Bishop Diego is buried in the sanctuary
- 4,000 Chumash are buried in the cemetery
- Also in the cemetery are mausoleums of early Spanish families
- "Mission was built for the Indians – the soldiers and their families went to the nearby Presidio"
- Restored after earthquakes
- Statues above altar came from Mexico
- Unique "twin towers," only twin tower mission in Alta California, and features sixbells, each dedicated to a saint
- Mission facade serves as acolorful background for community events
Collections include over 9,000 pages of documents from the Franciscan Missions of California and Arizona, the Junipero Serra Collection, and the De la Guerra family papers.
The Archive-Library has copies of the sacramental registers of the California Missions, recording baptisms, marriages, and burials, for use in genealogical research.
The Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library holds several thousand photo-images of various types, covering a broad range of subjects and dating back to the late 19th century.
Mission Era Documents:
Browse the catalogs of the Archive's collection, including the Junipero Serra Collection, 1713 to 1947; the California Mission Documents, 1640-1853; and the Apostolic College (Our Lady of Sorrows) Collection, 1853-1885.
Archives of the Province of Saint Barbara:
The Provincial Archives houses important historical documents, photographs, records, correspondence, books, ephemera, and other materials that belonged to, or were created by the friars and ministries of the Province of Saint Barbara. The Provincial Archives include materials related to the friars' missions abroad in the Philippines, China, and Peru; friars' personnel papers; and twentieth-century photographs from the Province.
The Province of Saint Barbara:
The friars of Mission Santa Barbara are part of the Province of Saint Barbara. The Province of Saint Barbara was founded in 1915 and is one of seven Order of Friars Minor Franciscan entities in the United States. The Province oversees Franciscan ministries in the western United States and has offices in Oakland, California.
Franciscan: - Any member of a Roman Catholic religious order founded in the early 13th century by Saint Francis of Assisi. The Franciscan order is one of the four great mendicant orders of the church, and its members strive to cultivate the ideals of poverty and charity. Congregations of these religious men and women are numerous all over the Roman Catholic world, and the Franciscans are the largest religious order in the Roman Catholic Church.
Mission Santa Barbara is the only mission to remain under the leadership of the Franciscan Friars since its founding
Mission Santa Barbara:
- It was founded by Padre Fermin Lasuen for the Franciscan order on December 4, 1786
- It was the tenth mission for the religious conversion of the indigenous local Chumash-Barbareno tribe of Native American people.
- The Mission grounds occupy a rise between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, and were consecrated by Father Fermin Lasuen.
- Today it is a parish church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
The mission is the namesake of the city of Santa Barbara as well as of Santa Barbara County and comes from the legend of Saint Barbara, a girl who was beheaded by her father for following the Christian Faith
1,792 Chumash lived as neophytes within 234 adobe huts that surrounded the mission, which was the highest number living onsite during a single year.
Two Argentine ships under the command of the French privateer, Hipolito Bouchard approached the coast and threatened the young town of Santa Barbara. The padres, led by Fray Antonio Ripoll armed and trained 180 of the neophytes to mobilize for the anticipated attack. They were organized into an infantry unit comprising one-hundred archers that were reinforced by an additional fifty brandishing machetes, and a cavalry unit of thirty lancers. Father Ripoll named the unit "Compania de Urbanos Realistas de Santa Barbara". With their help, the Presidio soldiers confronted Bouchard, who sailed out of the harbor without attacking.
The Mission's Chumash population declined to 1,132, which then dropped to 962 three years later.
During the period of the Chumash revolt of 1824 on February 22nd, under the leadership of Andres Sagimomatsee, the mission was briefly seized and looted, while the soldiers posted there were disarmed of their muskets and (with two of them having been wounded with machete blows) were sent back to the Presidio. After an indecisive battle was fought against troops from the presidio who were subsequently sent engage them, most of the Indians withdrew over the Santa Ynez Mountains via Mission Canyon and eventually on to the eastern interior; while fifty others had fled during the night of the uprising to Santa Cruz Island in plank canoes embarking from Mescaltitlan. For a few months thereafter, the mission was mostly devoid of any Chumash presence until a pardon agreement was brokered for their return. By June 28th of that year, about 816 out of an approximate population of 1,000 had returned to the mission.
The remaining Chumash residing at the Mission dwindled from 481 to 246.
Only a few Indians were about the area of the mission.
Construction and Development:
The early missionaries built three different chapels during the first few years, each larger than the previous one.
The appearance of the inside of the church has not been altered significantly since 1820
The first chapel built was a palisaded log structure with a grass roof and an earthen floor that measured 39 feet x 14 feet.
The second chapel was constructed out of adobe with roof tiles and measured 83 feet x 17 feet.
It was replaced again with another adobe tiled-roof structure that measured 125 feet x 26 feet. The third chapel was destroyed by the 1812 Santa Barbara earthquake.
Construction of the fourth Mission structure had begun and was mostly completed by 1820.
The towers were considerably damaged in the June 29, 1925 earthquake, but the walls were held intact by the buttresses. Restoration was undertaken the following year. The church had been accurately rebuilt to retain its original design utilizing the original materials to reproduce the walls, columns, and arches.
It was discovered that the concrete foundation of the church had begun to disintegrate while it was settling into the ground, thereby causing the towers to crack. The facade and towers were demolished and subsequently rebuilt to duplicate their original form.
After the Mexican Congress passed An Act for the Secularization of the Missions of California on August 17, 1833, Father Presidente Narciso Duran transferred the missions' headquarters to Santa Barbara, thereby making Mission Santa Barbara the repository of some 3,000 original documents that had been scattered through the California missions. The repository is known as the Santa Barbara Mission-Archive Library, an independent non-profit educational and research institution that is separate from Mission Santa Barbara, but occupies a portion of the mission building complex.
The Mission archives contain one of the richest collections of colonial Franciscan music manuscripts known today, which remain closely guarded (most have not yet been subjected to scholarly analysis).
Old Mission Santa Barbara
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105