Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Queen of the Missions"

Located on the northeast edge of Santa Barbara is Mission Santa Barbara, called the "Queen of California's twenty-one missions" because of its graceful beauty.

The Mission was established on the Feast of St. Barbara, December 4, 1786.

Santa Barbara was the first mission founded by Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, successor to Father Serra, who founded the first nine missions.

Over time, three adobe churches were constructed on the grounds, each larger than the one before. The third was destroyed by earthquake in 1812, and the fourth and present church was built in 1820.

An earthquake in 1925 nearly destroyed the stone church. An extensive restoration was completed in 1927. Unfortunately, in 1950 a chemical reaction in the materials used in the restoration weakened the structure.

The front of the church then had to be rebuilt, and steel-reinforced concrete now supports the mission that now appears just as it did in the mission's glory days. In 1833 a second tower was added, making it the only mission with two towers.

The next three photos show the structures of the buildings that form a quadrangle around a garden courtyard with a fountain.

It was interesting to learn that the water system at this mission was so extra-ordinary that parts of it are still used today by the city of Santa Barbara.

It was the most elaborate water system of all the missions. Water from a dammed creek in the hills two miles above the mission was carried by a stone aqueduct to a storage basin near the church. There was even a separate branch with a filtration system used for drinking water.

From the late 1800s into the twentieth century, the mission functioned as a high school, a junior college, and a seminary.

One of the rooms in the Mission's museum showed the kitchen used by mission-aries staying at the convento.

The skull and crossbones is the Spanish symbol for a cemetary. This cemetary, adjacent to the Mission, was established in 1789 and inters more than 4000 Chumash Indians as well as European settlers and missionaries.

This Moreton Bay fig tree has spread its roots among the graves. This tree with its twisted trunk and roots created an unusually-beautiful addition to this setting.

The burst of colors--blues, greens, oranges, golds, and reds--cast a warm glow over the entire nave.

Behind the altar is a crucifix backed by a golden sunburst and below is a statue of Santa Barbara.

This painting of the Assumption and Coronation of Mary located toward the front of the church is one of two that are the largest in the California Missions and are approximately 200 years old.

The next two photos highlight the colors of the table

and wall just below the painting.

Inside the church in an alcove under a painted dome is a statue of Jesus and Mary at his tomb.

I was not able to learn anything about this decorative addition to the ceiling near the entrance to the church.

The fountain in front was built in 1808. The flowers shown in these final two photos are in the large basin or lavenderia that was used by Indian women to wash clothes.

A beautiful Mission and deserving of the title "Queen of the Missions."

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