Santa Barbara Mission, the “Queen of the Missions”
From the time I read about the Santa Barbara Mission I wanted to visit. This is so beautiful and so much history occurred here that it is hard to take in all the changes that occurred from the establishment of the Spanish missions. This historic site is still an active parish and while the purpose of the mission’s were the bring Christianity to the Indians, in this case the Chumash, the Missions served as small farms and communities changing the face of the way of life for everyone.
The Santa Barbara Mission is the 10th mission out of 21 established by the Franciscans in California in 1786. Today, over 200 years later the mission still functions as a church and active parish today. Franciscan monks still reside at the mission and visitors can visit the church, museum and cemetery, gift shop and gardens. The landscape was awe-inspiring with a fountain out front of the mission and gardens to view both out front and inside. Called “The Queen of the Missions” today the mission has 12 acres in gardens, but at one time, those acres were fields and orchards. ) Jeff Maulhardt, Director of Oxnard Farm Park during a presentation at the NATJA conference shared a bit of history about this area. “The first inhabitants were hunters & gatherers during Chumash period. Next came the Spanish Era from 1769 – 1821.”
The original buildings at the mission were made from adobe and over time three adobe churches were located onsite and as they were built they grew in size. The 3rd church destroyed by an earthquake in 1812, then the current church was built. It was finished and dedicated in 1820 with the friary residence built little by little starting out as one story, then adding a second. It was finished in 1870.
The Franciscans introduced agriculture to the Indians and as they were converted the Christianity, they came to live and work at the mission. On a trip to Solvang, I saw a Chumash Indians casino so some of the tribal members are still around today. Originally their homeland expanded along the coast of California between Malibu and Paso Robles as well as on the Northern Channel Islands. While the Chumash hunters and gatherers they also built plank boats (tomols) which they used to travel to the Channel Islands.
I was excited to learn about the farming history at the mission and saw several tools on display. An upcoming article in Farm World will outline the agricultural timeline for the mission. Along with the farming history, the art and architecture of the mission kept my attention. We saw statues made by the Chumash, religious statues throughout the mission and in the cemetery area. There was a room like the monks used, and art including pictures one very moving one of the Crucified Christ.
Besides the lovely sanctuary (that I didn’t take pictures inside because it seemed inappropriate) that was my favorite part of the visit along with the amazing plant life. I think I will always remember the beauty of the Australian fig tree planted way back in the 1800’s. For a mission located at that time in an unpopulated area I was amazed by the amount of contact with the outside world. They had pepper trees from Peru and I read about a quote from a French Navigator. The monks brought the world to California and then the world came to them.
The mission’s history is woven into that of California. Spain lost California to Mexico in 1822, and in 1834 the Mission was secularized. The Indians were no longer under the church authority and the buildings began to deteriorate. Things improved when Fr. Duran was then appointed administrator in 1839. In 1843 the Missions were returned to the Franciscans then in 1845 the Missions were sold. Much to the approval of those from the Land of Lincoln, in 1865 that the Mission was returned to the Catholic Church by Abraham Lincoln. California become part of the U.S. in 1848.
This is a small time capsule of one mission, the Spanish changed the face of California and remnants of that history still remain today.
Log ontohttp://www.santabarbaramission.org/about/ for details.