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The 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. A new and improved adobe church was later constructed in 1789 with a clay tile roof. Add-ons were continued throughout 1794 such as a kitchen, storage rooms, even a dam which can be visited to this day. In 1812, the 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.
The new church measured 161 feet in length, 27 feet wide and 42 feet high. The Greco-Roman style stone façade features several Doric columns positioned below a triangular pediment with 87 feet high toers on both sides. The first tower was built was completed in 1820 and the second tower was completed in 1833. 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.
According to reports on the internet, this area is haunted. With over 5,000 pioneer and Chumash Native American bodies buried nearby one can imagine a place like this having some creepy moments. The wealthy family’s crypts line the outside of the grassy area. Various apparitions have been seen roaming this area. You can read stories here.
Personal Experience: 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?