Known as “The Mission By The Sea,” Mission San Buenaventura was the ninth (and last) mission founded by Junipero Serra, and one of only six that he personally dedicated. This was the eighth mission Tracy and I have toured on our California Mission Quest to visit all 21.
Located in Ventura (about an hour up the coast from L.A.), Mission San Buenaventura was able to maintain flourishing orchards and gardens in its time thanks to a system of aqueducts that were built by the Chumash Indians between 1805–1815 to meet the needs of the Mission population. Of course, like most of the California missions, this one was seriously damaged by both fires and earthquakes. Today, only the church (the second one…the first was destroyed by a fire) and its gardens have survived.
As we found out on this Sunday morning, this is still an active church. We arrived in between masses at about 10 a.m., so after paying our $4, we hurried into the church, so we didn’t disrupt the next service.
The main altar of the stone church was dedicated in 1809. The three figures represent The Immaculate Conception, Saint Bonaventure, for whom the mission was named (this statue is more than 400 tears old) and Saint Joseph, who I always thought was the patron saint of aspirin for children.
There are two altars that are on either side of the main altar. The altar on the left (above) depicts The Shrine Of The Crucifixion. From the left the figures are of Saint Anthony of Padua, Mother of Sorrows, Shrine of the Crucifixion, Saint John and Saint Thomas Aquinas.
On the opposite side (right side when facing main altar) is The Altar of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which has a centerpiece painting that dates back to the mid 1700s. When you enter he church from the garden you can see a scroll showing Saint Francis (below).
On this beautiful Sunday, as people started to enter the church for mass, we exited back out into the garden.
The first thing you come upon is the requisite Junipero Serra statue.
Walking across the garden, we came upon a rebuilt Olive Press that represents how the first pressing was done using a moving wheel. Sadly, no olive oil tasting here.
Nearby is the Our Lady of Grace shrine. Thankfully, not Nancy Grace.
If you didn’t know any better that would be the end of the tour, but we saw a pathway that led to the back of the church. There we found the first Settling Tank for the Mission water system.
There is also a statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. Known as Lily of the Mohawks, she was canonized by ex-Pope Benedict XVI at Saint Peter’s Basilica in October, 2012, only the fourth Native American to be venerated by the Roman Catholic Church.
At the back of the church is a grave site that contains three of the church padres, Padre Vicente de Santa Maria, who died in July 1806; Padre Jose Senan, who died in August 1823; and Padre Francisco Suner, who died in January 1831.
For such a small area, this mission has a lot to see, including the beautiful fountain in the center of the garden.
In front of the church stand two humongous Norwalk Pines that were ostensibly going to be used to build masts for ships.
Planted in the late 1800s, they’re still here today. It doesn’t take long to visit, but Mission San Buenaventura is not short on beauty.
That might have been the end of our journey, but if you come to visit the mission, there are a couple of more things in the nearby vicinity to check out. Directly across the street from the mission is a restaurant, which is also an historical landmark.
The Peirano Market Building was originally constructed in 1877 by local investors for its first tenant, an Italian immigrant who opened a general merchandise and grocery store. His nephew, Nicola Peirano, assumed management of store operations and later purchased the property.
We liked the two large wall murals on the side of the building that were used extensively in the early 20th century.
We were still not done. Located just five minutes from Mission San Buenaventura is Serra Cross Park at Grant Park.
Soon after Junipero Serra founded Mission San Buenaventura, a large wooden cross was placed on a neighboring hillside. The original cross and a series of replacements were lost to the elements, but locals never gave up.
The current cross has stood atop its circular stone pedestal since 1941. It’s now a place where people gather for weddings and picnics…and you can’t beat the views.
These mission excursions can make you hungry (well, just about everything makes me hungry), and fortunately Tracy and I found one of the best breakfast spots we have eaten at in ages; the Golden Egg Cafe, located about five minutes from the center of town on Main Street.
We sat outside and enjoyed a great breakfast. Tracy had a delicious Chilaquiles dish, while I devoured a scrumptious Chorizo Skillet with three eggs, tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, potatoes and cheese. Don’t miss it.
For a fun and interesting morning, take some time and drive up the coast (or down, as the case may be) to Ventura and Mission San Buenaventura.
For those visiting, there is also a small mission museum, too, containing artifacts that include some old mission bells.
Mission San Buenaventura
211 East Main Street • Ventura, CA 93001-2622 (enter through gift shop next door)
Hours: Monday – Friday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday 9 – and Sunday 10 until 4
Parking: Street (coins) or Parking Lot next to Mission
Telephone: (805) 643.4318
Serra Cross Park (at Grant Park)
Grant Park (off Ferro Dr.)
Golden Egg Cafe
2009 East Main Street • Ventura, CA 93001
Hours: Daily from 6 a.m. – 2 p.m.