Santa Barbara

Santa Bárbara Key Facts

Santa Barbara, founded on December 4, 1786, is the only mission continuously operated by the Franciscans since its founding. This major mission has a distinctive church with a Neoclassical façade, a beautiful Moorish fountain, well-tended gardens, and a large museum. The only restored California Presidio is located in downtown Santa Barbara.

General Information

Santa Bárbara

Founded:
December 4, 1786
Current Status:
Active Roman Catholic Church owned and operated by the Franciscans.
Summary:
Santa Barbara, founded on December 4, 1786, is the only mission continuously operated by the Franciscans since its founding. This major mission has a distinctive church with a Neoclassical façade, a beautiful Moorish fountain, well-tended gardens, and a large museum. The only restored California Presidio is located in downtown Santa Barbara.

Key Facts About This Mission

Named For

Saint Barbara, a legendary martyred church figure of the 3rd century.

Founding Father President

Fermin Lasuen Fr. Fermín Francisco de Lasuėn  

Founding Missionaries

Frs. Antonio Paterna and Cristóbal Oramas

Prominent Missionary Leaders

Fr. Narciso Durán, who was elected Father President of the missions in 1825 and again in 1830, made Santa Bárbara the chain's headquarters from 1833 to 1846. 

Indians Joining Mission

Santa Bárbara was the third mission established in the land of the Chumash people at the native site of Xana'yan. The neophytes were referred to as Barbareño (after the mission) and Canaleños. 

Mission Site

In the city of Santa Bárbara on a hill commanding a striking view of the sea.

Layout

Santa Barbara was laid out in the traditional quadrangle, with separate granaries, a weavery with patio, tannery, and neophyte housing forming additional courtyard-oriented squares. 

Many of the existing buildings at the rear of the mission complex, however, were created to meet the needs of the seminary, established in the 20th century. Most of the new construction follows the foundations of the old quadrangle.

Water Source

Water was channeled from a dam constructed in Pedregoso Creek, high above the mission. A two-mile-long stone aqueduct carried water to a storage reservoir, feeder reservoir, and settling tank constructed in 1806 and attributed to Indian mason Miguel Blanco of Baja California. A second aqueduct carried drinking water to the mission, its fountains, and lavandería or washing facilities. 

Population

The highest population recorded was 1,792 in 1803.

Livestock

Santa Barbra Cattle Brand Santa Bárbara had a sizeable livestock herd that exceeded 10,000 head in the years 1802-1823. In the peak year of 1821, the mission had 13,732 animals including 3,500 cattle and 9,000 sheep. 

Agricultural Output

Over the years 1787-1834 Santa Bárbara reported harvesting 223,285 bushels of wheat, barley, corn, beans, peas, lentils, garbanzos (chickpeas), and habas (broad beans). The mission had two vineyards and many fruit trees. 

Mission Church

The church was completed in 1820 with one tower. The second tower was added in 1831, collapsed within two years, and was rebuilt in 1833. 

The Neoclassic facade was inspired by a mission archives copy of the Spanish edition of The Six Books of Architecture by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio. A Roman architect of 1st century B.C. 

Mission Bells

Six bells hang within the two church towers.

Mission Art

The mission church is filled with original and noteworthy paintings and statues.

The two largest religious paintings in all of the missions are found at Santa Barbara. 

Significant Event(s)

Chumash Couple Neophytes revolted at Santa Inés, Santa Bárbara, and La Purísima in 1824. The event underscored how relations with the largely Chumash neophytes deteriorated after the Mexican takeover of California in 1821. 

Secularized

1834

Year Returned to Catholic Church

1865

Interesting Facts

Under Fr. Narciso Durán the mission became the major record depository for the mission chain, a role that continues to this day.

Francisco García Diego y Moreno, the first Catholic Bishop of California, resided at this mission from 1842 to 1846. 

Santa Barbara is the only mission continuously operated by the Franciscans since its founding.

An Apostolic College or missionary center for California functioned at the mission from 1856 to1885, a Junior Franciscan Seminary from 1886 to1901, and St. Anthony's Seminary from 1900 to 1987.

Juana María, the Lone Woman of San Nicholas Island portrayed in Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins was buried in the mission cemetery in 1853

Additional Information
  • Geiger, M.J. (1963). Pictorial History of the Physical Development of Mission Santa Barbara: from brush hut to institutional greatness, 1786-1963.
  • Weber, F.J. (Ed.). (1979). Queen of the Missions: A Documentary History of Santa Barbara.
  • Engelhardt, Z. (1923). Mission Santa Barbara, Queen of the Missions.
    (The definitive early history of the mission)

     

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