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  Santa Barbara Mission - 1890
 
Santa Barbara
  
     Stately Santa Barbara is the best preserved and probably the best known of the California Missions the only one continuously in the hands of the Franciscans since its founding (1786). In magnificent condition, it serves as St. Barbara's Parish church today and is the only mission with an alter flame that has been burning without interruption for more than a century and a half.  
     Often called "The Queen of the Missions" because of its majestic twin towered architecture, regal location and romantic environment, Santa Barbara has had this usage consistently nurtured by its resident Franciscans. (However, the use of this title can be confusing. Mission San Gabriel had earlier earned recognition as "The Queen" for its pre-eminence during the "golden era" of the missions 1776 to 1833.)  
     The special status of Santa Barbara goes back to the period 1833 to 1846 when Father Narciasco Duran, then Presidente of the California Missions, chose it for the site of his office. In 1835 Jose Figueroa, the greatest Mexican governor of California, requested to be buried at the Santa Barbara Mission. And when the Right Reverend Francisco Garcia Diego, California's first Bishop, arrived in 1842 he made the mission his headquarters.  
     Classical Roman is combined with traditional mission style in the architecture of the massive stone church, com pleted in 1820 to replace the adobe chapel that was destroyed in the earthquake of 1812. With heavily-buttressed 6-foot-thick walls, the new church withstood all challenges until the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake toppled one of its towers, severely damaged the ornate facade and caused major interior structural problems. Supposedly repaired  
by 1927, the mission subsequently developed large cracks that necessitated further reconstruction of the front of the building-completed in 1953 at a cost of nearly a half- million dollars.  
     The Santa Barbara story really starts with its presidio (fort) four years before the mission founding. Governor Felipe de Neve gave strong priority to military and civic settlements and took a dim view of new missions, so he established a presidio at Santa Barbara in 1782 and Father Junipero Serra, who was present at its dedication, was bitterly disappointed to find that the governor would not approve a Santa Barbara mission the same year.  
     In 1786, after the death of Serra and the replacement of the governor, the great mission builder Father Fermin Lasuen was finally allowed to dedicate the Santa Barbara   mission site on a commanding knoll more than a mile north of the presidio. From the start, the Franciscans found the Canalino Indians helpful and friendly-the same high type of Chumash whose industrious nature had already been observed at San Buenaventura.  
     Although Santa Barbara never came close to matching San Gabriel for livestock, agricultural production or total wealth, her 5,000 cattle, 11,000 sheep and hundreds of horses enjoyed widespread grazing lands and her crops were watered by such a durable aqueduct (build by 400 Indians) that some of it is still in use as part of the Santa Barbara municipal water system. In addition to irrigation, its reservoirs furnished water for the kitchen and flour mill as well as the attractive star-shaped fountain and lavenderia that has been standing in front of the mission since 1808.  
     Saved from attack by the privateer Bouchard in 1818 when resourceful Father Antonio Ripoll drilled and armed some of his Indians to back up the presidio guard, Santa Barbara Mission was also spared the potentially disastrous effects of the Secularization Act by the presence of popular and outspoken Presidente Duran and prestigious Bishop Diego.  
          Santa Barbara, the tenth Alta California mission, was founded on December 4, 1786. This was the year, on the other side of the continent, that the Annapolis Convention was held, leading to the U.S. Constitution. December 4th is the feast day of Saint Barbara, virgin and martyr, an Asia Minor Christian beauty whose tragic death at the hands of her pagan father occurred about the year 240 A.D.  
 
 by Maria Hetenyi