santa barbara mission

California Mission Photos


Mission San Buenaventura, Ventura, California



The Ventura Mission, one in a chain of 21 California missions, is perched on a hill above the Pacific Ocean. You can stand on the mission stairs and view a plaza with a water fountain surrounded by beautiful brickwork next to an historic building with a restaurant and some outdoor tables with umbrellas. Further In the distance you can see the blue ocean waters of Ventura California beaches. Mission San Buenaventura (good fortune), is utilized as a church, with an active parish. Ventura County is one of Southern California's great agricultural regions featuring  more microclimates than nearly any other place. But at Ventura, the soil is rich and farm laborers live nearby, finding this historic mission and gathering place for weekend mass where there's standing room only.


Immortalized in front of the beautiful building is a statue of Fray Junipero Serra, considered the father of the California missions. Planned as the third mission, many problems such as a fire that would destroy the first effort caused great delays. Finally the church was completed in 1809 as the ninth and last mission founded during Serra's lifetime. It was one of six he personally dedicated.

With others assigned to carry on the duties of operating the new mission, a seven-mile-long aqueduct was constructed (listed in historic landmarks) to bring Ventura River water to the Mission. Plentiful water produced orchards and gardens described by English navigator George Vancouver as the finest ever seen.


Though we don't hear much about this, 1812 was a year filled with earthquakes and a tidal wave that forced inhabitants of the mission to flee to higher ground. If you view the mission's hilltop location, you have to imagine that the tidal wave must have been tremendous in size. For nearly 50 years the mission went through disrepair, pillaging and even a sell-off during the era of Mexican control of California. After California became a state in 1850, Bishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany petitioned the United States government to return Mission holdings to the Catholic Church. The request was granted in the form of a Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln on May 23, 1862.

Because of severe earthquake damage in 1857 the Mission’s tile roof was replaced by a shingle roof. Some years later, in an effort to "modernize" the church, the windows were lengthened, the beamed ceiling and tile floor were covered, and the remnants of the quadrangle were razed. The west sacristy was removed to provide room for a school, which was not actually built until 1921.

In a major restoration under the supervision of Father Aubrey J. O’Reilly in 1956-1957, the windows were reconstructed to their original size, and the ceiling and floor were uncovered. A long-time parishioner commissioned the casting of a bell with an automatic angelus device and donated it to the Mission; it hangs in the belltower above the four ancient hand-operated bells.  The entire roof of the church was removed and replaced in 1976.