Mission Santa Barbara
Mission Santa Barbara information
California's ‘Queen of the Missions’ reigns above the city on a hilltop perch over a mile northwest of downtown. Its imposing Doric facade, an architectural homage to an ancient Roman chapel, is topped by an unusual twin bell tower. Inside the mission’s 1820 stone church, notice the striking Chumash artwork. Outside is an eerie cemetery – skull carvings hang over the door leading outside – with 4000 Chumash graves and the elaborate mausoleums of early California settlers.
As you walk through 10 small rooms of museum exhibits, which include Chumash baskets, a missionary’s bedroom and time-capsule black-and-white photos, doors will lock behind you, so make sure you’re finished before moving on. Docent-guided tours are usually given at 11am on Thursday and Friday and 10:30am on Saturday; no reservations are taken.
The mission was established on December 4 (the feast day of St Barbara) in 1786, as the 10th California mission. Of California’s original 21 Spanish colonial missions, it’s the only one that escaped secularization under Mexican rule. Continuously occupied by Catholic priests since its founding, the mission is still an active parish church.
From downtown, take MTD bus 6 or 11, then walk five blocks uphill.