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The California Missions

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Mission
"The Queen of the Missions"
The Tenth Mission of the Mission Chain
Founded 4 December 1786
by Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuen

Naming of Mission:

The mission is named for Saint Barbara, possibly because it was founded her the Feast of St. Barbara, 4 December 1786
The mission is on a hill at the end of Laguna Street and overlooks the city of Santa Barbara. The mission site is near the Presidio in an area called "Rocky Mound"
The Santa Barbara Mission was to have been built sooner than it was. Father Serra actually raised a cross at the Presidio in 1782, but the Governor, Felipe de Neve, did not allow the mission to be built. Instead he delayed authorization until Father Serra was very ill and ready to die. Fr. Serra died in 1784. When the mission was finally approved, Father Lasuen chose a site at the Chumash Indian village of Tanayan founding the mission on 4 December 1786, the feast day of St. Barbara. The Spanish name for the area was El Pedregoso meaning Rocky Mound. Father Antonio Paterna began the construction of the mission in 1787. The first buildings had thatch roofs and walls of logs. A dormitory, kitchen and storeroom of adobe brick were later added to complete the traditional quadrangle. Additional housing for the natives was built near the mission . Later, a second quadrangle was begun next to the first one. During all this time of construction, a series of larger churches was built for the mission. The second church was made of adobe bricks and a tile roof and completed in 1789. The third church was also made of adobe and had a tile roof and was completed in 1794. It was the largest and had six side chapels. The fountain was added in 1808. The mission was destroyed on the 21 December, 1812 in an earthquake. After the destruction, a new church was begun made of stone. Started in 1815 and completed and dedicated in 1820, this church was 161 feet long, 42 feet high and 27 feet wide. It had just one bell tower, but a second one was added in 1831 making the San Barbara Mission unique among all the missions. The second tower fell in 1832 and was re-built in 1833. The rest of the mission was completed gradually and was not finished until 1870. Once again, disaster struck on 29 June 1925 when another large earthquake damaged the mission, and once again, restoration efforts at a cost of nearly $400,000, were begun with work completed in 1927. The exterior of the mission was restored in such a way that the original appearance of the mission was kept intact. In 1950, a chemical reaction occurred in the restoration materials. This weakened the mission structure. The face of the church had to be redone. The twin bell towers, both 87 feet tall, were reinforced in 1953 to strengthen them again more seismic activity. The interior of the church has remained the same since 1820.
Education activities at the mission began early. A high school and junior college for boys was held at the mission by the Franciscans from 1868 to 1877. In 1896, a seminary was begun here. The School of Theology for the Franciscan Province of St. Barbara was here until the summer of 1968.
The local Indians were the Chumash, who adapted well to the mission life. Many trade were taught at the mission, including agriculture and irrigation. The Indian Dam was built in 1807 to assist in obtaining good water for the mission. The water was diverted to the Mission via an aqueduct which ran downhill to the mission. The ruins of this area, along with a mill, vats and reservoir may be seen today. The water system, built by the Indians, was very well-built, so much so that parts of it are still used by the city of Santa Barbara today. The Chumash learned well and were successful, so much so that the mission of converting and teaching the Chumash here was considered complete by the padres as early as the 1830's.
In 1834, the missions were secularized. The Santa Barbara Mission fared much better than any of the other missions. This was because the Franciscans were never evicted from the mission during its history. When more northern missions were overtaken, Father Duran, President of the mission chain moved his office to Santa Barbara, along with California's first Bishop. Because of the importance of these two men, the Mexican government did not try to take over or sell the mission as they did with the others. In 1846, both of the men died. At this time, Pio Pico did try to sell the mission, but, at the same time, California became a state. This prevented any sale of the property. Services were allowed to be held all along and the mission received its good care from the Franciscan Fathers during the entire time of secularization. The missions and their lands were returned to the Catholic Church in 1865 by proclamation from President Abraham Lincoln.
Mission Santa Barbara is the only mission to remain under the leadership of the Franciscan Friars since the day of its founding until today.
The area has rich and varied cultural history. Many people of the area today have their ancestry from Chumash, Mexican, Spanish, other nationalities combined. The cultures of all these nations combined well in the Santa Barbara area continuing to this day.
Contact the Mission:
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Gift shop phone: (805) 682-4149
Phone: (805) 682-4713

Mission Trivia:
The present stone church, with its familiar twin bell towers, is the fourth church at the mission
Santa Barbara is the only mission in the California chain remaining under control of the Franciscans without interruption from the day of its founding until the present time
there are over 4,000 Indians buried, including Juana Maria. She was known as "the woman of San Nicolas Island" and for whom the book "Island of the Blue Dolphins" was based.
The City of Santa Barbara grew up around the Santa Barbara Mission .
One of the trees in the garden is a lemon tree, it was brought here in the 1700's.
Santa Barbara is the only mission with two bell towers
Mission Links:
Santa Barbara Mission Website
Here is a directions and contact page for the mission
California State Historic Landmark #309
An account of the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake
Santa Barbara Mission history page
Historical photos of the Mission

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This page was last updated on 28 June 2012 at 3:18 pm
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