Old Mission Santa Barbara

Which, I don’t know that there’s a New Mission Santa Barbara, but I suppose when you’ve been around since 1786 you can call yourself whatever you want. As these things go, it was established on the named saint’s day – December 4 – making it the tenth of the twenty-one California Missions. Santa Barbara is number thirteen for the ones I have visited.

The Mission Church is still an active parish and the Mission has a community of Franciscan friars. In addition to the buildings, there is a cemetery and mausoleum, and extensive gardens. Guided tours are offered, but we just went through the grounds and museum on our own. The self-guided version is easy to follow, and, like any good tourist attraction, you end up in the gift shop.

The Museum was small but well done, and had a nice selection of artifacts on display. I found the history video shown at the start a little hard to swallow though, with its repeated insistence on how the Mission was a blending of cultures and how friendly and equitable it all was between the Franciscans and the Native people. (my paraphrase)

I quite enjoyed the gardens though, and the GIANT old fig tree in the cemetery with its pitter pat of dropping figs. I later saw that there is also a La Huerta Historical Garden (tours requiring advance reservation) that includes plantings representative of the Mission era – Sonoran wheat, olives, grapes, citrus trees, bananas, sugar cane, pomegranates, peaches, guava and prickly pear. That sounds cool! Note to self if I ever get back to Santa Barbara. (Apparently there’s a carousel too, (in town somewhere, not at the Mission) which I didn’t know when we were there, although I only heard about it because it’s going to be leaving! But I digress.)

The front of the church, with the columns looks sorta fake, and, to me, doesn’t quite go with the rest of the outside of the buildings, and what I think of when I think of California Missions but the inside was quite lovely. Oh, maybe it was the pink color that put me off. Anyway, I suppose the architectural style seemed like a good idea at the time. It is a very pretty setting, and it’s always fun to try to imagine what it must have been like back in the day.

more pictures

Visit date: 10/28/2017

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