Top Banner
Home Page Button   Beginnings of the Mission
Teacher Information Button   Mission Santa Barbara was the 10th Mission founded, and the first to be founded after Father Junipero Serra had died. Father Serra had originally requested permission to build the Mission from the Spanish Governor in 1782 but the Governor was concerned that the Catholic Church would have too much power in the new world and he refused. The next Governor agreed and Father Lasuen founded the Mission on December 4, 1786. The Mission has been nicknamed the ’Queen of the Missions.’
For Parents Button  
Mission History Button  
Sources Button  
Bibliography History Button   Location and Geography
  The Mission is located very close to the coast on the edge of the Central and Southern California regions. It was built near Siujtu, a Chumash village, and drew Native Californians from other villages in the area as well.

    The Native Americans
    The main tribe in the area around Mission San Barbara was the Chumash. The Chumash were one of the larger tribes in California. Records kept show that there were approximately 40 villages in the area plus 15 villages on islands off the coast. Like most of the other tribes in California, the Chumash were nomadic. That means that they lived in one area for a time and would move their entire community to follow herds for food or when too much garbage piled up they would burn down the old ones and find another site to build their homes. Men hunted and fished to provide food while the women gathered acorns, wild herbs, roots, and berries to help feed their families.

Mission records show that there were over 1500 neophytes living at the Mission and that there were over 250 adobe houses.

Top of Page Button   Architecture and Layout
    The Fathers followed a regular plan for creating the layout of the mission buildings. Right after blessing the site the Fathers and the soldiers would start building a small building to hold the religious ceremonies, called a Mass. They would encourage local Natives to help them. Many often did; they were fascinated by the tools and gifts that the Fathers had brought with them. The first buildings would be built of wood poles and brush. Eventually the buildings would be replaced by larger adobe brick or stone buildings. After a chapel or church was finished where the Fathers and Neophytes could hold Mass they would start building the Convento. The Convento was where the Fathers would live. Next would come workshops and the Monjerio. The Monjerio was where unmarried girls and women would live and be locked in at night. The Fathers didn’t think that unmarried girls and women should live near single men. Eventually there would be enough buildings for four sides of a square or quadrangle. The Mission complexes weren’t perfect squares because the Fathers didn’t have a way to measure distance other than walking off distances. Most Missions included a fountain. The fountain was used for washing, laundry, and water. The more fancy the fountain the more successful the Mission.

The first adobe Church was finished in 1789. In 1794 a larger adobe church was built. In 1806 a water system was added to bring water to the Mission. A series of large earthquakes struck the Southern California area in 1812 and severely damaged the Mission. In 1815 the Fathers decided to build a larger church and modeled it after a book of instructions that they had on how to build a roman temple. The Church was finished in 1820 but suffered another earthquake in 1925. The Church as Mission Santa Barbara is made of stone instead of adobe; only three Mission churches were made that way. Mission San Carlos and Mission San Juan Capistrano were also built of stone. Mission Santa Barbara’s construction is unique and it is the only Mission to have two identical bell towers on either corner of the Mission Church.

Top of Page Button   Life at the Mission
    Life at the Mission was difficult for both the Fathers and the Natives. During the early years most Missions had trouble supporting themselves and depended on deliveries of supplies and food from New Spain and other Missions. Often the ships were unable to make the trip and the Mission’s members went hungry. It normally took several years before a Mission was able to plant enough food and raise enough cattle and other animals to be able to feed everyone who lived at the Mission.

Those that lived at the Mission went by a strict schedule. The Fathers were used to this type of lifestyle, but the neophytes were not. The structure of Mission life was one of the reasons many Native Californians tried to leave. A French explorer, Jean François de La Pérouse, visited Mission San Carlos is 1786 and wrote a detailed account of what he observed. Events at the Mission were signaled by the ringing of the Mission bells. Each day started around sunrise (about 6am). The Mission bells would ring to wake everyone and summon them to Mass and morning prayers. Prayer lasted for about an hour and then everyone would go to breakfast. Atole, a type of soup made from barley and other grains, would be served. Breakfast took about 45 minutes and then it was time for everyone to go to work.

The Fathers were responsible for running the Mission and instructing the new converts and children in the Catholic faith. Most of the men went to the fields to tend to the crops or to help with the animals while women stayed at the Mission and worked on domestic chores such as weaving cloth and making clothes, boiling down fat to make soap and candles, and tending to the vegetable gardens. Children often helped at these chores around the Mission once their religious instruction was over. Depending on the particular industry at the Mission there also might be neophytes leatherworking, metalworking, wine making, and pressing olives for olive oil.

At noon the bells would ring again for everyone to gather for dinner, what we would call lunch. Lunch was normally pozole, another thick soup with beans and peas. After an afternoon break everyone returned to their work for another two to four hours depending on how much work there was to be done. A last bell would be rung to end the work day. Another serving of Atole would be served and the neophytes would be able to rest until it was time for bed (Margolin, Pg. 85). Women were usually expected to go to bed by 8pm and men by 9pm. Most of the Fathers allowed their neophytes to continue to hunt and gather additional foods and to cook some of their traditional dishes.

Living at the Mission was often difficult for new converts. They were used to working when work needed to be done and resting when they were tired. The Mission lifestyle was different. The Neophytes were the main source of labor for the Missions. It was their hard work along with the soldiers’ and Fathers’ that built the Missions and their outbuildings. Agriculture and ranching required constant tending to the crops and animals. Without this labor the Missions would not have been able to survive. Many neophytes missed the freedom of their tribal life and would try to leave the Mission. The Fathers wouldn’t allow neophytes to leave and would send soldiers to search for them and bring them back. Runaways were usually punished for breaking the rules.

Living at Mission Santa Barbara provided the opportunity for shelter and access to a consistent food source. The neophytes were given new clothes twice a year and they were allowed to continue hunting and gathering to add to the food at the Mission. The Mission flourished and records show that they had planted 6000 grapevines and 100 fruit trees. They also planted corn and wheat and raised sheep. The wool from the sheep was important because the Mission could sell extra cloth that the neophytes had made for items that the Mission could not produce.

The Mission was the site of a Native rebellion in February 1824. The unrest spread to other missions but was ended quickly once the soldiers were called. Many natives returned to the missions simply because they had no where else to go.

Top of Page Button   The End of the Mission Period
    The Mission was officially secularized in 1834. Records show that the population decreased from 962 in 1823 to 481 in 1836. The Mission started to decay. Father Narciso Duran had been the last mission president and lived at Mission Santa Barbara. The first bishop also lived there and the Mexican government chose to leave the mission alone. In 1846 both men died and the Governor Pio Pico seized the lands to sell. The land was sold to Nicholas Den and Daniel Hill, two farmers. When California was made part of the U.S. the government seized the lands and returned them to the church. The Mission church itself was never sold and remained under Franciscan control.

Top of Page Button   Reconstruction and The Mission Today
    A 1925 earthquake damaged in Mission buildings and they were rebuilt. The front of the Mission Church was restored in 1950. Mission Santa Barbara is the only Mission to have been in continuous control of the Franciscans that founded it and one of only two Missions to still be run by the Franciscan order.

    How to Reference this Page
    To Reference or Cite this page you will need 5 items of information:

  • The Author’s Name: Tricia Weber
  • The Title of the Page: (Look at the banner at the top of the page.)
  • The Date the Page was Last Updated: August 18, 2006
  • The URL(Web Address) of the Page: (Look in the Address Bar at the top of the page.)
  • The Date you Visited the Page: Use today’s date.
If you need more help check out the How to Cite Sources page.