Spanish Franciscan culture in Santa Barbara
Travel back in time to Santa Barbara’s earliest days at the historic Old Mission Santa Barbara. With its grand double bell towers, exuberant gardens and the majestic Santa Ynez mountains as a backdrop, the Mission is one of the city’s most picturesque landmarks. Known as “Queen of the Missions” for its exceptional beauty, the Santa Barbara Mission was founded by the Spanish Franciscans in 1786. More than 200 years later, it’s still an active parish church and a vital and enduring element of Santa Barbara’s cultural landscape. History comes alive as you explore the grounds, church and on-site museum, where you’ll see fascinating 17th-century art, artifacts and re-creations of the Mission’s living quarters and kitchen, complete with an original adobe wall. Outdoors, you can admire the graceful architecture, explore the colorful gardens, and take in expansive views of the city and the Pacific Ocean.
Old Mission Santa Barbara bears witness to the Franciscan tradition, practicing radical hospitality. In the spirit of St. Francis, we honor creation and all people, welcoming everyone to this gathering place of joy, learning, exploring and spiritual reflection.
Old Mission Santa Barbara is a community of many parts, but one spirit. The Mission has served as a gathering place and spiritual home for many since its establishment in 1786. Today the Mission operations include a museum, gift shop, cemetery and mausoleum, and several historic gardens, as well as being the home to a community of Franciscan Friars on about 15 acres. The Mission is also home base for Saint Barbara Parish, which operates under the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library, a separate Franciscan-sponsored non-profit, and a Novitiate which provides the first year of education for Friars in training from across the United States.
“The mission of the Mission”
The following mission statement for the “greater Mission” of Old Mission Santa Barbara emerged from work done over the last few years and attempts to capture the breadth and spirit of our Franciscan call to service.
Old Mission Santa Barbara bears witness to the Franciscan missionary spirit through service to God and God’s people; as stewards of the Franciscan heritage in the West, we welcome all and strive to build a future based on reconciliation and justice which honors all creation and all people.
Old Mission’s History
Old Mission Santa Barbara was established on the Feast of St. Barbara, December 4, 1786 by Fr. Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, and was the tenth of the 21 California Missions to be founded by the Spanish Franciscans. It is also the only Mission that has been under the continuous guidance of the Franciscan Friars since its foundation in 1786, and it has the oldest liturgical choral singing tradition of any California mission.
During the two centuries of her history, Mission Santa Barbara has undergone many changes. Three adobe churches were constructed here before the present church was built in 1820. The Mission has seen the flags of Spain, Mexico and the United States fly overhead. Two major earthquakes nearly destroyed her: the first in 1812, was the impetus for the construction of a new and stronger church; the second, in 1925, wrought considerable damage and, once again, required extensive rebuilding. However, despite natural disaster, and political and social turmoil, the Queen of the Missions has endured.
Mission Santa Barbara preserves for all who visit an abundance of rich treasures that offer a unique perspective on the past, and remains an unparalleled resource in the Santa Barbara community. In the humble spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, the Mission fosters reverence, care and joy for all creation (people, creatures and environment) through ministry, service and study by offering a gathering place where pilgrims, visitors, scholars and communities can grow and thrive in God’s goodness.
Due to county and state COVID-19 mandates, docent guided tours are not available until further notice. Self-guided tours are now open Mon -Sat from 9:30am -4:00pm and Sun 11:00am – 4:00pm. The Mission Gift Shop, parking lot, and restrooms are open 7 days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. When visiting, please remember to practice social distancing, wear a mask, and follow any safety precautions. Please visit our website at:
Photo by Jay Sinclair, Courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara
How to visit the Historic Mausoleum:
The mission is 1 hour walk from our hotel, 25 minutes on bike or 10 minutes by car.
The Historic Mausoleum is open for personal visits by family and friends during our operating hours, daily from 9:30am – 4:00pm. Please check in with the tour desk when you arrive, no reservation is required.
Personal visits by family and friends to the Friars Vaults and wheelchair access to the mausoleum require advance notice. Please call 805.682.4713 ext.154 or fill out the request form at the bottom of the page to schedule an appointment.
Santa Barbara Old Mission Gift Shop:
Retail with a Mission: Providing Goodwill, Hospitality, and Gifts!
Serra Shop: Open 7 Days a Week from 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM
Old Mission Santa Barbara
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105