Among the many beautiful things to enjoy in Santa Barbara, California, one of my favorite ones is the Old Mission. Its architecture, its setting, its history all make it a neat place to visit but what I like the most is that it is still in use by the monks and the locals; in other words, it is not just a museum.
The Santa Barbara Mission is located on what seems to be the outskirts of town but it really takes no time to reach it from the center of Santa Barbara (a very easy place to get around with a car or a bike). It was established by the Franciscan monks around 1768 as one of the last of a series of missions founded along California by the order. As with most places where Europeans (or people of European descent), there was contact between the new arrivals and the locals; in this case the Chumash Indians. The Santa Barbara Mission represents the longest continuous presence of the Franciscans in the United States.
The structures that have been on the site and are now have gone through changes and repairs, especially due to damage from earthquakes over its lifetime and after a period of civil administration of the site when the structures were not maintained. Not today: the structures look well kept up and on a beautiful day (which seems to be every day in Santa Barbara), the Mission is perfect for photos! Admiring the facade of the mission is not hard. The ample space outside allows one to step back and soak the whole structure in.
Once inside, one can enjoy the beautiful inner courtyards and outdoor “hallways” of the mission.
At some point, one enters the cemetery area on the side of the main church before entering the church itself, following the sequence proposed in the self-tour which, at $7, was a great deal! They also have led tours which seem would be best to better grasp the history and meaning of the Mission. Unfortunately, we had less time than the tours require so we did the self-guided version.
The church itself has the feel of what makes a place of worship one where I could focus and reflect and pray. It is simply beautiful.
The Mission is not just a place to go check out if you are in Santa Barbara: it is one of the reasons you should GO to Santa Barbara!