About the Old Mission Santa Barbara
The Old Mission Santa Barbara was founded on December 4th, 1786 by Father Fermin Lasuin. It would be the 11th California Mission to be built and was named after Saint Barbara. It is the only mission still under the administration of the Franciscan Order.
Three churches were built on this site over the years. The first church was erected with a thatch roof and dirt floors.
In 1812, the Old Mission was severely damaged by an earthquake. The decision to rebuilt was ultimately made. Construction began shortly after the earthquake and the new mission was finished in 1820.
Another earthquake hit the Santa Barbara area in 1925 and afterwards the stone façade was rebuilt and reinforced with steel and concrete. The interior of the Mission church has remained unchanged since 1820.
Indigenous Slave Labor
Despite what the mission websites usually claim, the missions were not a place of peace and enlightenment for most of the Natives. The Old Mission Santa Barbara used the Chumash tribes for slave labor to build the mission, brick by brick.
The bands were taken from their land and put on reservations, being forced into Catholicism and losing their identity. For 60 years, they were imprisoned and forced into labor and beatings.
The death rates of the Natives were appallingly high and said to be of a higher rate than those being born annually. The crippled the Native population that was already suffering from the diseases brought over seas.
We happened to sleep outside the mission the night before exploring it. It was not part of our itinerary for our road trip but we were tired of driving and landed upon this beauty by chance. I wish I hadn’t been so tired because it looked fantastic at night. I’d love to have taken some night photos of it.
We were awoken to old church bells at around 7 in the morning. It felt as though we were back in time. That started off our morning and we explored many ruins in this vicinity before finally venturing inside. Missions are not for everyone, but if you are into old architecture or pieces of history and are heading up north, why not add this to your list of places to see?