I have been interested in the California missions since I spent a summer in San Juan Capistrano, and I was excited to visit another mission yesterday.
A little history courtesy of Wikipedia:
The Spanish missions in California comprise a series of religious outposts established by Spanish Catholics of the Franciscan Order between 1769 and 1823 to spread the Catholic faith among the local Native Americans. The missions represented the first major effort by Europeans to colonize the Pacific Coast region, and gave Spain a valuable toehold in the frontier land. The settlers introduced European livestock, fruits, vegetables, and industry into the California region; however, the Spanish occupation of California also brought with it serious negative consequences to the Native American populations with whom the missionaries came in contact.
So far, I have been to San Juan Capistrano, San Luis Obispo, San Francisco (Dolores), and now Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez (more about that one later.) San Juan Capistrano goes by the nickname "The Jewel of the Missions", while Santa Barbara is "The Queen of the Missions." Both are beautiful and well restored. In some missions, you can go into the church for free, but have to pay for the museum part. At Santa Barbara, we paid for both, but it was well worth it - I love the beautiful internal courtyards and the church was gorgeous as well.
The Santa Barbara Mission was established on the Feast of Saint Barbara, December 4, 1786 and was the tenth of twenty-one California Missions to be founded by the Spanish Franciscans. It is interesting to look at the list of the missions and see when they were founded - they were not founded chronologically south to north, as I had initially thought. For instance, Mission San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores) was founded only seven years after Mission San Diego - the oldest one, founded in 1769.
My next goal is to visit some of the more remote ones; I have only been to missions located in cities. I have been recommended La Purísima Concepción, northeast of Lompoc, and San Antonio de Padua, north of Paso Robles. Next time!!