Upon arriving at Mission Santa Barbara, it’s hard not to be inspired as you make your way up the long driveway past the wooden cross erected in memory of Father Junipero Serra to this magnificent 1786 landmark with its Earthy Yellow-colored columns and lush flower-filled gardens.
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Mission sits majestically atop the foothills of Santa Barbara and is the town’s namesake’s star historical attraction and the perfect place for contemplation.
Mission Santa Barbara History
Also known as the “Queen of the Missions for its Graceful Beauty,” the Mission is one of the 21 Franciscan missions in California. The prior nine to the Santa Barbara version was founded by Padre Serra, who had always planned to make this one his 10th but sadly passed away two years before its creation.
His successor Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, went on with Serra’s plans to make this church, however, and then placed Padre Antonio Paterna, a companion of Serra, in charge.
Today the Mission still serves as a place of worship but is groomed to display the relics of the past, and is also open to the public and offers tours daily. Self-guided tours may be taken daily from 9 am to 5 pm, and docent-led tours may be arranged by appointment.
Things To Do Mission Santa Barbara
The interior of the Mission draws the biggest crowds, so you can escape the masses by wandering outside the flower-scented Sacred Garden. The garden is bursting with exciting cacti and succulents, but once was a working area of the inhabitants of the Mission.
An essential part of the mission complex is the central courtyard, anchored around a fountain and ringed by arcades. The 200-year old fountain was once used as a basin by Native Americans to wash clothes. A glazed terracotta sculpture of St. Barbara watching over Mary and Jesus in an alcove in the garden’s private entrance.
The 1522 masterpiece was just discovered a few years ago in a storage room cleaned out and is now on display for visitors to enjoy. Entrance to the Mission includes going through several display rooms, where you can see religious artifacts, implements, tools for work, and old photos and reproductions.
Mission Santa Barbara Art Collection
Further inside, visitors are treated to an astonishing art collection containing pieces from the baroque and neoclassical eras. Nearly every bit of it was imported from Mexico and the countries of South America. There are a couple of exceptions, though, most notably the three stone statues in the museum depicting Saint Barbara, along with the virtues of faith and charity.
The impressive part is that these were carved by a mission Indian using just pictures in a book to guide him as he created the three-dimensional images. As for the contents of the other paintings kept here, most of them depict angels, saints, and Bible stories. The most notable of these portrays the suffering of Jesus on the cross.
Among the Mission’s other attractions is the cemetery with its mausoleums, outbuildings including a mill, tannery, and parts of the original water system, as well as a humongous Australian fig tree.
Directly across the street from the Mission is over 1,000 rose bushes groomed as an offering to the Chumash Indians for the labor they performed for the Padres. It provides a perfect setting for a picnic, pictures, or relaxation.
Mission Santa Barbara serves as a reminder of the path of the Padres in California history and is one of the best-preserved in the California mission chain. So a visit to this fantastic place should not be overlooked.
Getting to the Mission
Plan on spending about two hours visiting the Mission and its beautiful grounds. For a modest charge, a ninety-minute guided tour is offered on Thursdays & Fridays at 11:00 am and on Saturdays at 10:30 am.
Mission Santa Barbara is open Monday – Sunday from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. 2201 Laguna Street Santa Barbara, California.