Old Mission Santa Barbara

The legend of St. Barbara, namesake of the city of Santa Barbara, sounds like a Game of Thrones’ episode. Saint Barbara was born in the Third Century to a rich pagan who locked her in a tower to keep her away from the influences of the outside world. Somehow she became a Christian anyway and when she refused to recant, her father beheaded her. On the way home from executing his daughter, he was struck by lighting and consumed by flame. Barbara’s tomb became known as a site of miracles and she is still venerated as a saint and martyr by the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. 

In the 18th century, Spanish efforts to occupy California, fortify it against the Europeans, and convert the Chumash natives to Christianity led to the founding of military outposts and religious missions. On December 4, 1786, the feast day of Saint Barbara, Spanish Franciscan priest, Fermín Lasuén, dedicated a mission on lands flanking the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Inez mountains, naming it Mission Santa Barbara. Today, the mission serves the Santa Barbara community as an active parish church, a venue for weddings and funerals, a popular tourist destination, and a home and retreat for Franciscan priests.

The Sacred Garden—originally used as a work area where building trades were taught to the Chumash natives.

A 27 B.C. Roman book on architecture inspired the mission’s Neoclassical design.

Santa Barbara is the only California mission with two matching bell towers. A narrow passage in one of the towers allows access to its eleven bells.

Under continuous care by the Franciscans since its founding, Mission Santa Barbara’s appearance hasn’t changed since 1820. The church currently has a large, active parish and offers daily mass, traditional Catholic sacraments, and religious educational opportunities. 

Unidentified statuary, presumably Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

Church’s front entrance with holy water font.







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