Mission Santa Barbara: The Queen of the California Missions

Mission Santa Barbara is second only to San Juan Capistrano in beauty and popularity for the California Missions. It was the tenth mission established by the Spanish Franciscans, and it was planned to be created by Father Serra, but he passed away before he was able to. Father Lasuen ended up founding it in 1786. Mission Santa Barbara is incredibly beautiful, and one of the best missions you can see on the trail. I saw it during day three of my drive, which you can read about here, and you can read more about Mission Santa Barbara individually below.

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Getting There

Mission Santa Barbara is located about 5 minutes off the 101 Freeway. There are signs from the freeway directing you to the mission, and you can put the above address into Google Maps. There is a large parking lot with lots of room so you shouldn’t have trouble finding parking.

The Mission Exterior

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The exterior of Mission Santa Barbara is my favorite part of the entire mission. From the moment you come around the corner and see this mission, you will be enthralled by its historic charm.

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There is a large grassy area out in the front of the mission with a cross right in the middle. This area is a great spot to take pictures of the chapel facade, which dominates the view.

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While outside, be sure to see the old stone lion carving done by a Chumash Indian, which is on the historic cistern.

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Also, the fountain here rivals some of the fountains at San Juan Capistrano for beauty, and it is a great spot to photograph with the chapel behind it.

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There is a statue of Father Serra and a bell for the El Camino Real Trail out here as well.

The Interior

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After entering through the gift shop and paying your fee, you will be given a map to explore the grounds. It seems a lot bigger than it is, and it will not take you too long to explore. Here are some of the things you will see.

The Sacred Garden

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The garden was initially used as a work area when the mission was thriving, but now it is just a large courtyard and garden. It is closed off so you can’t walk through it, but the pathway leading up to it provides beautiful views.

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I also found the plant life around the exterior, full of succulents, to be a nice touch to the sacred garden.

The Cemetery

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The cemetery is the central outside area for this mission. It is a large circular walkway that leads you around a massive bay fig tree over two centuries old.

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Along the exterior, there are all sorts of different mausoleums and grave sites to various people of importance in the mission’s history.

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There is also a large cross right in the middle that is another highlight in the area.

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As you walk into the church, notice the skulls on top of the door. I was confused as to what this was but learned that the skull carvings were put there to symbolize a cemetery was nearby.

The Chapel

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Of course, the chapel for Mission Santa Barbara is stunning. It matches the beauty of this mission as a whole.

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The alter piece is a combination of both colorful and ornate styles.

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There are two massive paintings on either side of the alter. These are the two biggest paintings in all of the California missions.

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When you have finished enjoying the chapel, you will make your way out the back door and on to the museum. On the way, don’t forget to check out the above padre, who is leading the way.

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Also, there is an area that shows how the chapel has been destroyed and rebuilt over the years that I found interesting.

The Museum

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Much like the other missions, there are a half dozen rooms dedicated to the museum. The rooms were originally used as living quarters for the missionaries and their guests. Now they display different pieces of art, as well as recreations of what the original rooms would have looked like.

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My favorites were the old bells; there was a bell here from the early 1700s. Also, near the end, there is an altarpiece made by a Chumash Indian, which was pretty cool to see as well.

Mission Santa Barbara is a fantastic example of a Spanish California Mission; it is one of the missions I would recommend you go to if you can only see a few as everything from the exterior to the chapel has been recreated to provide a stunning example of what a mission would have looked like. Read more about my road trip to visit all of the California missions here and let me know what you think of Mission Santa Barabra in the comments.

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