“Queen Of The Missions”
On a rather overcast Saturday morning, Tracy and I got an early start for our trip to Santa Barbara that would culminate with a fun and interesting lunch with my relatives visiting from Norway. First, however, we would pay a visit to the first mission that was established by someone other than Father Junípero Serra, the Old Mission Santa Barbara, dubbed “Queen Of The Missions.”
Serra had planned to establish the mission in Santa Barbara, but he died in 1784. Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuen succeeded Serra and raised the cross here two years later.
From the mission website (which I guess would make it a Mission Statement): “The original buildings were unpretentious and made of adobe. Over time three adobe churches were constructed on the grounds, each larger than the one before until the fourth and present church was built in 1820. The third was destroyed by earthquake in 1812. The fountain in front was built in 1808. The earthquake of June 29, 1925, which occurred during a chapel service, caused considerable damage to the Mission church and friary. People rushed out of the chapel while the beams in the front of the church fell. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Restoration work was completed in 1927, and the towers were reinforced in 1953.”
Old Mission Santa Barbara’s name comes from the legend of Saint Barbara. She was a girl who was beheaded by her father (a rich pagan..and obviously not very family-oriented… by the name of Dioscorus) for following the Christian Faith. It didn’t work out so well for Dioscorus either…as a punishment for this deed, he was struck by lightning on the way home, and his body was consumed by flame. Even back then…crime did not pay!
We paid our six bucks to enter the mission, and we started on our self-guided tour. Brother Juniper greeted us, and after stopping to watch a short film, we entered the Sacred Garden, which was originally used as an instructional area for Indians to learn different trades.
Passing by the Mission Renewal Quadrangle, we came upon an original Ox Cart (no ox, however) and a religious statue of unknown origin.
Since 1893, this structure has served as a final resting place for Franciscan friars and a number of prominent citizens who were part of the early history of Santa Barbara.
We walked among the dead for a few minutes.
The cemetery area of the mission was much more serene and beautiful than the Sacred Garden.
We spent about 15 minutes just wandering around, looking at graves, statues and some burial sites for people who might have had a little extra cash for expensive after-death housing.
We saw some skull carvings that looked like pirates, but they were just put there to denote that we were, indeed, in a cemetery.
One more tour around the cemetery…
The altar has colored background designs with statuary on the sides. The statue of the patron saint is in the center. The statues behind the altar date from the 1790s. There is also a crypt under the altar with a plaque on the floor in front of the altar that names those buried there. Supposedly, Old Mission Santa Barbara is the only mission that has its entire original altar intact. It’s also the only burial crypt room in a California mission. The church’s architecture, according to materials provided by the mission, “was taken from The Ten Books Of Architecture, written by the Roman architect Vitruvius around 27 BC.”
The colorful walls were intriguing.
Various paintings displayed were created by Mexican artists of the 18th and 19th centuries.
We exited the church, walked through another garden area, and headed for the museum, which consists of ten rooms.
The museum rooms were originally used as living quarters for the missionaries and their guests. We stopped by and touched the Señora de Guadalupe Bell that dates from 1836.
There are various pieces of Chumash Indian art displayed throughout the museum. The three large statues in one room represent Faith, Charity and the original St. Barbara from the façade of the church before the earthquake of 1925 damaged them. These are the only known examples of large Indian-made sculptures made in California.
There are also rooms decorated the way missionaries and native Americans would have lived back in the 1800s. This is what a mission kitchen would have looked like. It reminded is it was almost time for lunch
Some of the visitors who have visited the mission have included Babe Ruth and Queen Elizabeth, and they have the photos to prove it.
Back outside, I had Tracy take the “Tom as a Friar” photo, because…well, there really is no good reason I do these things.
Old Mission Santa Barbara became the 11th mission on our quest. We are finally over the halfway mark in our goal to visit all 21. For anyone interested in traveling to California’s missions, I would put Old Mission Santa Barbara very near or at the the top of the ones we have visited so far.
Old Mission Santa Barbara
2201 Laguna Street • Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Hours: Daily 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Docent Guided Tours: $8 (Thursdays & Fridays 11:00 am • Saturday 10:30 am)