Friday, October 24, 2014

Queen of the Missions

Mission Pilgrimage

One of the most interesting historical trails within California is the “Mission Pilgrimage” consisting of 21 missions built during a period of 54 years.  Over 200 years old and constructed before the discovery of gold and even before California was a state and referred to as Alta California, these outposts of Spain were founded to spread Christian doctrine and consolidate and extend the empire. Stretching from San Diego in the South up to Sonoma in the North, all are still standing despite natural and manmade disasters.  Each have their own architecture and history contributing to the fabric and texture of modern day California.

Established on December 4, 1786 and named after the patron saint Barbara, the 10th mission along the trail, commands a beautiful position framed by the Santa Ynez mountains with views of the Pacific Ocean earning her the well-deserved reputation of  “queen of the missions.” An easy but energetic walk from the Cheshire Cat Inn, a visit is highly recommended. A suggested departure time is just after a delicious breakfast when the air is still cool and the mission still quiet before the tourist buses descend. Your stroll takes you through a leafy neighborhood adorned with typical Santa Barbara architecture.  An impressive structure with 2 bell towers and a façade modeled after an ancient Latin temple in Pre-Christian Rome, her beauty can be admired from a distance.  Surrounded by beautiful gardens and an extensive rose garden where locals walk their dogs and meet up with friends and neighbors,  the mission’s property contains the Mission Gardens, church and cemetery and houses an archive of significant and rare documents describing the living conditions of the Padres and Chumash Indians during their day. Testament to the wisdom of the Padres, the Mission is equipped with its own fresh water system. Although not drinkable today, water was directed from a creek in the mountains via a stone aqueduct to large tanks within the mission property providing water for all its inhabitants.  Today, sections of this elaborate and complex system are still part of the Santa Barbara water works.

The Mission still exists as an active church and hosts a list of local events including the opening ceremony of Fiesta Days which is one of Santa Barbara’s most beloved celebrations.  Another traditional favorite is attendance at the beautiful Christmas Eve Mass where children can also enjoy the live nativity scene held on the grounds. I Maddonori, the Italian street painting festival, invites people from all over the world to admire the exquisite chalk drawings. There is no doubt that  our “queen of the missions”  remains the iconic symbol of Santa Barbara.

Innkeeper Cheshire Cat Bed and Breakfast Inn

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