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The California Missions


Mission San Buenaventura
the 9th Mission in the California Mission Chain
Founded on 31 March 1782
Easter Sunday
by Father Junípero Serra
under the Patronage of St. Bonaventure

Naming of Mission:
The mission was named for Saint Bonaventure
Sometimes called the Mission by the Sea due to its location close to the ocean.
Mission San Buenaventura is along the California Pacific coastline north of Malibu and south of Santa Barbara
The San Buenaventure Mission was founded on Easter Sunday, 31 March 1782 by Father Junipero Serra as the ninth mission in the California Mission Chain. It was the last mission which he founded during his lifetime. The founding took place on the beach of the Santa Barbara Channel. In a history this was called "la playa de la canal de Santa Barbara." Father Serra was assisted by Father Pedro Benito Cambon when he celebrated Mass on that holy day. It was planned for this to have been the third mission in the chain, but there was some delay in the founding due to disagreements with the then governor. Father Serra finally went ahead with the building somewhat against the new rules. By the time the governor came back, the mission was running efficiently and smoothly putting aside any of the governor's concerns. It did, however, delay the eventual building of the Santa Barbara Mission which was the next mission in the chain to be built.
Father Serra left the mission in the charge of Father Cambon. He led the mission in his initial building and also in the seven mile aqueduct from the Ventura River to bring good water to the mission. This irrigation system helped the mission to become one of the most productive of the missions.
The mission had difficulty completing and keeping its buildings intact. The first church was ruined by a fire. The second church building effort ended when the "door gave way." In 1792, the present church was begun along with other surrounding buildings. Only half finished in 1795, the church was finally finished in 1809. The building wasmade of stone and masonry and was dedicated on 9 September 1809. The church and the outbuildings formed the traditional quadrangle typical of the missions.
Several earthquakes damaged the mission and in 1812, a large earthquake and tidal wave inflicted great damage which took almost three years to repair. The mission had to temporarily relocate during the repairs. Again, disaster struck in 1818, but this time, it was not nature which did the damage. The French pirare, Bouchard, was attacking in the area so the padres took the sacred objects and their people to hid in the hills for about a month. All was well once they returned.
In June, 1836, the secularization of the missions began. San Buenaventura seemed to fare better than most of the missions during this time. This was probably due to the fact that the first administrator, Rafael Gonzeles, was an honest and hard-working man. By 1845 the mission and its lands had finally been broken up and sold. It wasn't until 1862 that the land and mission was returned to the church by proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln.
Another large earthquake in 1857 cause great damage to the tile roof so it was replaced by a wood shingle rood. Later, the church was "modernized" when the beams were covered and windows were lengthened.
Because of severe earthquake damage in 1857 the Mission's tile roof was replaced by a shingle roof. Some years later, in an effort to "modernize" the church, the windows were lengthened, the beamed ceiling and tile floor were covered, and the remnants of the quadrangle were razed. The west sacristy was removed to provide room for a school, which was not actually built until 1921. During the pastorate of Father Patrick Grogan the roof of the church was once again tiled, the convent and present rectory were built, and a new fountain was placed in the garden.
In a major restoration under the supervision of Father Aubrey J. O'Reilly in 1956-1957, the windows were reconstructed to their original size, and the ceiling and floor were uncovered.
A long-time parishioner commissioned the casting of a bell with an automatic angelus device and donated it to the Mission; it hangs in the belltower above the four ancient hand-operated bells.
The entire roof of the church was removed and replaced in 1976. In December of that year the church was solemnly consecrated by Timothy Cardinal Manning.
In 1982 the Mission marked its bicentennial anniversary.
Contact the Mission:
San Buenaventura Mission
211 East Main Street
Ventura, CA 93001-2622
Phone: (805) 643-4318
Mission Trivia:
One point of interest in the Mission is found behind the Mission building itself. Three Padres are buried there: Padre Vicente de Santa Maria, who died 16 July 1806; Padre Jose Senan, who died 25 August 1823; and Padre Francisco Suner, who died 17 Janaury 1831.
Mission Links
San Buenaventura Mission Website including history and pictures
This is a location and directions page with maps and other information
California State Historic Landmark #310

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