Mission Santa Barbara

Mission Santa Barbara
Mission Santa Barbara
Mission Santa Barbara
The capilla (chapel) at Mission Santa Barbara.
Location 2201 Laguna St.
Santa Barbara, California 93105
Name as founded La Misión de La Señora Bárbara, Virgen y Mártir [1]
English translation The Mission of the Lady Bárbara, Virgin and Martyr
Patron Saint Barbara of Greece [2]
Nickname(s) "Queen of the Alta California Missions" [3]
Founding date December 4, 1786 [4]
Founding priest(s) Father Fermín Lasuén [5]
Founding Order Tenth mission [2]
Headquarters of the Alta California Mission System 1833–1846 [6]
Military district Second [7]
Native tribe(s)
Spanish name(s)
Barbareño, Canaliño
Native place name(s) Xana'yan [8]
Baptisms 5,556 [9]
Marriages 1,486 [9]
Burials 3,936 [9]
Secularized 1834 [2]
Returned to the Church 1865 [2]
Governing body Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles
Current use Parish Church
Coordinates 34°26′17.98″N 119°42′50.11″W / 34.4383278°N 119.7139194°W / 34.4383278; -119.7139194
National Historic Landmark #NPS-66000237
California Historical Landmark #309
Website http://www.santabarbaramission.org

Mission Santa Barbara, also known as Santa Barbara Mission, is a Spanish Franciscan mission near present day Santa Barbara, California. It was founded December 4, 1786, the feast day of Saint Barbara, as the tenth mission for the religious conversion of the indigenous local Chumash—Barbareño tribe of Native American people. The Mission grounds occupy a rise between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, and were consecrated by Father Fermín Lasuén, who had taken over the presidency of the California mission chain upon the death of Father Presidente Junípero Serra. Mission Santa Barbara is the only mission to remain under the leadership of the Franciscan Friars since the day of its founding.



Mission Santa Barbara's name comes from the legend of Saint Barbara, a girl who was supposedly beheaded by her father for following the Christian Faith. The early missionaries built three different chapels during the first few years, each larger than the previous one. It was only after the great Santa Barbara Earthquake on December 21, 1812,[10] which destroyed the existing buildings, that the construction on the current Mission was begun. It was completed and then dedicated in 1820. The towers were considerably damaged in the June 29, 1925 earthquake,[11] but were subsequently rebuilt in 1927.[12][13] The appearance of the inside of the church has not been altered significantly since 1820.

The Mission in 1876.

Many elements of the Mission's extensive water treatment system, all built by Chumash Indians' labor (including aqueducts, two reservoirs, and a filter house) remain to this day, as does a grain mill; the larger reservoir, which was built in 1806 by the expedient of damming a canyon, has been incorporated into the City's water system. The original fountain and lavadero are also intact near the entrance to the Mission. A dam constructed in 1807 is situated in the current Santa Barbara Botanic Garden up "Mission Canyon." The Mission's tanning vats, pottery kiln, and guard house are all in ruins to this day.

In 1818, two Argentine ships under the command of the French privateer Hipólito Bouchard approached the coast and threatened the young town of Santa Barbara. The padres armed and trained 150 of the neophytes to prepare for attack. With their help, the Presidio soldiers confronted Bouchard, who sailed out of the harbor without attacking.[14]

After the Mexican Congress passed An Act for the Secularization of the Missions of California on August 17, 1833 Father Presidente Narciso Durán transferred the missions' headquarters to Santa Barbara, thereby making Mission Santa Barbara the repository of some 3,000 original documents that had been scattered through the California missions. The Mission archive is the oldest library in the State of California that still remains in the hands of its founders, the Franciscans. Beginning with the writings of Hubert Howe Bancroft, the library has served as a center for historical study of the missions for more than a century.

Santa Barbara Mission
The "Queen of the Missions" circa 1910.
Location: Santa Barbara, California
Built: 1820
Architect: Father Antonio Ripoll
Architectural style: Colonial
Governing body: Private
NRHP Reference#: 66000237[15]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP: October 15, 1966
Designated NHL: October 9, 1960[16]

In 1840, Alta California and Baja California were removed from the Diocese of Sonora to form the Diocese of Both Californias. Bishop Francisco Garcia Diego y Moreno, OFM, established his cathedra at Mission Santa Barbara, making the chapel the pro-cathedral of the diocese until 1849. Under Bishop Thaddeus Amat y Brusi, C.M., the chapel again served as a pro-cathedral, for the Diocese of Monterey and then the Diocese of Monterey-Los Angeles, from 1853 to 1876. It is for this reason that of all the California missions, only the chapel at Mission Santa Barbara has two matching bell towers. At that time, that particular architectural feature was restricted to a cathedral church.[citation needed]

When President Abraham Lincoln restored the missions to the Catholic Church on March 18, 1865, the Mission's leader at the time, Friar José González Rubio, came into conflict with Bishop Amat over the matter of whether the Mission should be under the ownership of the Franciscan order rather than the diocese. Bishop Amat refused to give the deed for the Mission to the Franciscans, but in 1925, Bishop John J. Cantwell finally awarded the deed to them.

The Mission also has the oldest unbroken tradition of choral singing among the California Missions and, indeed, of any California institution.[citation needed] The weekly Catholic liturgy is serviced by two choirs, the California Mission Schola and the Cappella Barbara. The Mission archives contain one of the richest collections of colonial Franciscan music manuscripts known today, which remain closely guarded (most have not yet been subjected to scholarly analysis). The original City of Santa Barbara developed between the Mission proper and the harbor, specifically near El Presidio Reál de Santa Bárbara (the "Royal Spanish Presidio"), about a mile southeast of the Mission. As the city grew, it extended throughout the coastal plain; a residential area now surrounds the Mission, although there are public parks and a few public buildings (such as the Natural History Museum) in the area immediately adjacent to the site.

As the center for the Franciscans the Mission played an important role in education. From 1854 to 1885 it was chartered as an apostolic college and from 1869 to 1877 it also functioned as a college for lay men.[17] Thus making it Santa Barbara's first institution of higher education. In 1896 this education initiative was led to the creation of a high school seminary program that in 1901 would become a separate institution, Saint Anthony's Seminary.[17] In 1929 the college level program was relocated to Mission San Luis Rey de Francia and would become San Luis Rey College from 1950 to 1968 before relocating to Berkeley, California what is today the Franciscan School of Theology (FST).

Present-day situation

Mission Santa Barbara today continues to serve the community as a parish church. In addition to its use as a place of worship, it contains a gift shop, a museum, a Franciscan Friary, and a retreat house. The Mission grounds are a primary tourist attraction in Santa Barbara. The Mission itself is owned by the Franciscan Province of Santa Barbara, and the local parish rents the church from the Franciscans. For many decades in the late 20th century, Fr. Virgil Cordano, OFM served as the pastor of the St. Barbara's Parish co-located on the grounds of the Santa Barbara Mission. He died in 2008.


  1. ^ Leffingwell, p. 61
  2. ^ a b c d Krell, p. 187
  3. ^ Ruscin, p. 89
  4. ^ Yenne, p. 98
  5. ^ Ruscin, p. 196
  6. ^ Yenne, p. 186
  7. ^ Forbes, p. 202
  8. ^ Ruscin, p. 195
  9. ^ a b c Krell, p. 315: as of December 31, 1832; information adapted from Engelhardt's Missions and Missionaries of California.
  10. ^ SCEDC | Wrightwood Earthquake (1812)
  11. ^ SCEDC | Santa Barbara Earthquake (1925)
  12. ^ NHL Writeup[dead link]
  13. ^ NPS Redbook[dead link]
  14. ^ There is a great contrast between the legacy of Bouchard in Argentina versus his reputation in the United States. In Buenos Aires, Bouchard is honored as a brave patriot, while in California he is most often remembered as a pirate, and not a privateer. See Hippolyte de Bouchard.
  15. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15. http://nrhp.focus.nps.gov/natreg/docs/All_Data.html. 
  16. ^ "Santa Barbara Mission". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=141&ResourceType=Building. Retrieved 2008-07-03. 
  17. ^ a b Franciscan School of Theology History
  18. ^ http://www.imadonnarifestival.com/im.html%7C I Madonnari Festival at Mission Santa Barbara

See also


The Mission's lavanderia was constructed by the Chumash Indians around 1806.
  • Forbes, Alexander (1839). California: A History of Upper and Lower California. Smith, Elder and Co., Cornhill, London. 
  • Jones, Terry L. and Kathryn A. Klar (eds.) (2007). California Prehistory: Colonization, Culture, and Complexity. Altimira Press, Landham, MD. ISBN 0-759-10872-2. 
  • Krell, Dorothy (ed.) (1979). The California Missions: A Pictorial History. Sunset Publishing Corporation, Menlo Park, CA. ISBN 0-376-05172-8. 
  • Leffingwell, Randy (2005). California Missions and Presidios: The History & Beauty of the Spanish Missions. Voyageur Press, Inc., Stillwater, MN. ISBN 0-89658-492-5. 
  • Paddison, Joshua (ed.) (1999). A World Transformed: Firsthand Accounts of California Before the Gold Rush. Heyday Books, Berkeley, CA. ISBN 1-890771-13-9. 
  • Ruscin, Terry (1999). Mission Memoirs. Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, CA. ISBN 0-932653-30-8. 
  • Yenne, Bill (2004). The Missions of California. Thunder Bay Press, San Diego, CA. ISBN 1-59223-319-8. 
  • Hispanic Catholicism in transitional California: the life of José González Rubio, O.F.M. (1804–1875), by Michael Charles Neri, published 1997 by the Academy of American Franciscan History (v.14, history monograph series).

External links

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