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EXCLUSIVE: What’s new at Old Mission Santa Barbara

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Known as the "Queen of the Missions," the bells of the Old Mission Santa Barbara have echoed throughout the region since the Franciscans founded it in 1786 on the feast day of Saint Barbara. 

“The old mission is an architectural landmark in Santa Barbara county for sure. It’s outstanding among missions in California because of its neoclassical architecture and it’s two towers," said Father Joe Schwab of the Old Mission Santa Barbara.

Tucked in the hills of Santa Barbara facing the Pacific Ocean, visitors have made the pilgrimage for hundreds of years to witness this historic structure.

“We’ve always had people from every country … from Arab countries, European countries, Asian countries African … every place everyone comes through here," said Schwab.

The mission has endured some of Santa Barbara's most horrific natural disasters including the 1925 Earthquake. 

The 6.3 magnitude earthquake toppled both bell towers and destroyed much of the mission.

The Mission's foundation held fast, allowing the structure to be restored by 1927.

Now nearly a hundred years later, the need for restoration at the Old Mission REMAINS a top priority.

“I’m excited to be in a place where there is movement and there is the movement is really a movement of connecting our past with our present, and sort of opening our way into the future," said Father Dan Lackie of the Old Mission Santa Barbara.

Inside the Mission, the restored Station of the Cross paintings are now illuminated to showcase their vibrant colors.

The original Mission Tabernacle has returned to the front of the alter.

In the front of the Mission, one of the largest projects is in the works to allow easier access for all VISITORS. 

“With an ADA approved grade … going up toward the wall there … left toward the church … around the base of the tower … to stop on the platform … so that people can get into the church easily," said Schwab.

Designs for the ADA ramp are in the works and need to be approved by the city before construction begins.

Friars at the mission say despite all these changes, their commitment to preserving the Mission is constant.

“We’re making a statement for the future … that we were here and cared enough to say to the future … we cared … you do the same," said Schwab.

As the mission continues its projects, administrators believe community support is essential to making it happen.

“Part of the problem is raising funds. Of course these things are very expensive. Donations are welcome and very helpful. It will be hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Schwab.

This newly planted Monarch Butterfly Waystation adjacent to the historic Olive Garden pathways is maintained by parishioners. 

Last year, a Chumash Memorial Bear Sculpture was installed in the Old Mission Cemetery to commemorate the nearly 4,000 baptized Chumash people living in Santa Barbara during the Franciscans missionization of the region. 

“We’re coming together as people from all different backgrounds … saying this is part of our past … and we’re making a statement that we care about our past … and our past caries us into the future," sai Schwab.

For many, Easter is the promise of a new beginning.

“My hope is that more and more here at the old mission … we can be a new beacon of healing and if that’s happening … man my heart is singing," said Lackie.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
historic site degradation and restoration
Old Mission Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara
weather and natural disasters

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Patricia Martellotti

Patricia Martellotti is a reporter for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Patricia, click here.


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