Founded in 1786, just after the death of Father Junípero Serra, Santa Barbara is the tenth of the 21 Franciscan missions in Alta California. As one is constantly reminded in brochures and guidebooks, Santa Barbara is the “Queen of the Missions.”
While the outside is nice enough, there is no doubt that the interior is certainly the prettiest of the missions, as it is still an active parish and in great shape. The chapel itself is fairly simple, barring the elaborate altar with incredibly vibrant statues.
Even though this mission is in downtown Santa Barbara, I felt an incredible sense of peace there that I can’t explain, more so than other missions in the middle of nowhere. The Sacred Garden is the first thing one experiences upon entry and it sets the mood.
After admiring the various flowers and cacti, I skipped the historical video to head straight to the cemetery garden. There are two highlights here: 1) the enormous Moreton Bay fig tree, which is not nearly as big as “the” Moreton Bay fig tree, but I hadn’t seen that one yet, and 2) the skull carvings over the church doors.
After the entering the chapel from the cemetery, one proceeds through a museum in the former living quarters of the missionaries, but, after all we saw at La Purísima, I didn’t spend very much time there.
Even upon exiting, the sense of peace carries through with the fountain out front, built in 1808. Which made me really happy I didn’t stop that day during the I Madonnari festival.