Father Serra - Missionary

Father Serra - Missionary
Always forward, never back

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Mission Santa Barbara and The Presidios

Mission Santa Bárbara

Mission Santa Bárbara, also known as The Queen of the Missions, is the only one of the 21 in California to remain under Franciscan stewardship since its inception to present day.

The first mission buildings were made of logs, with thatch roofs. Later, an adobe wing completed the quadrangle with a dormitory, kitchen and storeroom. There were also rows of over 200 houses for the mission natives built next to the mission.

Eventually, construction of a second quadrangle was begun adjacent to the first. Throughout all this construction, a succession of larger adobe churches were built. The largest one, completed in 1794, had six side chapels and was destroyed in the 1812 earthquakes. Work began on a new stone church 161 feet long, 42 feet high, and 27 feet wide. Initially only one tower was included, but in 1833 a second tower was added, making it the only mission with two towers.

The water system at this mission was so extraordinary that parts of it are still used today by the city of Santa Bárbara. It was the most elaborate water system of all the missions. Water from a dammed creek in the hills two miles above the mission was carried by a stone aqueduct to a storage basin near the church.

There was even a separate branch with a filtration system used for drinking water.

Santa Bárbara Chapel

Very early in writing The Sailor and The Carpenter, Book One of Father Serra's Legacy, I encountered some gaps and questions I could not find answers for online. I contacted the Franciscan Friars at Mission Santa Bárbara. I cannot express enough thanks for their help and information. They even went so far as to send me a hardback book, Hispanic California Revisited, which provided a goldmine of things I couldn't find anywhere else.

From its founding, there have been very many different buildings on the site. An earthquake in 1814 did serious damage to the fourth and the friars set out to erect a stone building finished in 1820. Finally, in 1827, Father Antonio Ripoli, with two hundred Indian volunteers working in a woolen mill, started on the last. But, with Mexico taking the lands and buildings away from the church, Father Ripoli sailed for Spain in an American brig. The Indians fell to their knees and sobbed loudly at the departure of the beloved “Father.”

Santa Bárbara near ruins

An effort was undertaken by the Franciscan to turn the mission into a hospice and then a school for those who wished to take to the cloth. Rome didn't have the money and the church continued to languish. I know some of the friars remained in the area during the period of Mexican rule, harbored and cared for by the Indians they were so often accused of enslaving and torturing.

Finally, in 1885 with the Americans in power, the mission became part of the St. Louis, Missouri, Province of the Friars Minor.

Mission Santa Bárbara, rebuilt

I love this picture as it's a perfect replica of what the friars in the 1700s were able to construct. Just look at the difference between the crude structure and the magnificent church in the background. How did they do it?

Efforts have also been undertaken to restore the Presidio. Many of the soldiers serving there received land grants from the Mexican governor as a bribe to keep them from rising up against the far away government in Mexico City.

I hope that if you ever visit California, you will take the time to stop by and sit on a bench in the beautiful gardens or enter the chapel to see replicas of what those friars did more than two centuries ago.

Santa Bárbara gardens

Presidio of San Diego

As indicated in previous posts, growing up in Southern California made me aware of its Spanish influence. I knew of the missions but had never heard of “presidios.” The first time I became aware of them was during my Basic Combat Training at Fort Ord, California. The Special Services Office gave guided tours for we poor recruits – the only way we were permitted to leave the base before graduation. On a tour to the famous Cannery Row, the guide briefly said something about “The Presidio,” a large, nearby, park-like area.

Then, I was assigned to the Presidio of San Francisco. I learned that presidio meant a fort of some kind. If there was a museum there, I don't remember it so I don't think I ever delved into the history of the place. I just assumed it came from the Spanish era.

My research into the era for Father Serra's Legacy has taught me what they were and the important role they played in California history.

Presidio of San Diego

The above map shows the first presidio established in California located alongside the bay in San Diego. There is very little left of this place that never really reached a stage of truly defending against an attack from the sea. It started as a place where sick and dying Spanish soldiers were housed and from where the dead were taken to the nearby cemetery. Over the years, even though it had a reasonable number of soldados de cuera, the name for the soldiers who served in the area literally meaning soldiers of leather jackets, it was never fully manned.

Now that you're curious, these soldiers were lancers and the jackets they wore were fashioned of very thick layers of leather that could keep an arrow from inflicting wounds.

As of 1790, a census of the San Diego shows on lieutenant, commanding, one cadet, one sergeant, 5 corporals, and 88 common soldiers with their wives and children. Not exactly a whole lot after being in existence for 21 years!

Leatherjacket Soldier

The next presidio to be founded was at Monte Rey [the correct Spanish name of the place] supposed to be the capital of Upper California. The capital of both upper and lower California was in Loreto, Baja California that also had a presidio!

Presidio of Monte Rey

The above picture doesn't seem to be that accurate. It is supposedly from Captain Vancouver's diaries or journal and the location is wrong. First of all, the Monte Rey peninsula is forested with massive, tall pines. Second, the presidio was close to the bay as its purpose was to defend against a naval attack. The items in the picture DO seem to reflect what he would have seen.

Again, in spite of its supposed importance, the garrison never reached the size necessary to defend anything. In fact, French pirates came and simply ignored the helpless soldiers, setting off to raid the nearby pueblo or village.

The next to be established was probably the most important in military terms, the Presidio of San Francisco defending the entrance to the huge bay.

Presidio of San Francisco

Again, having lived there, this so-called “historical depiction” seems to be somewhat lacking in accuracy. The fort itself was much closer to the water with long cannon aimed out to sea. The soldiers are not wearing the proper uniforms and it insinuates the Miwok Indians were being herded around like slaves. Again, another example of “politically correct” propaganda about how badly the poor aborigines were treated.

And finally, the fourth presidio, the one at Santa Bárbara. A little bit of reading lets one discover that the fort was actually built well before the mission – very much to Father Serra's disappointment.

Presidio of SB Chapel

Of all the presidios, this was probably the best built and manned. It was not meant to protect a big harbor as there really wasn't one. But, because of winds and currents, it was a regular landfall for Manila Galleons after their arduous voyages across the Pacific. Any ship landing there was well-received and crews were delighted with what the missions friars had to offer. Because of soil and climate, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables were cultivated. Bananas. Figs. Dates. And all of the regular fruits; apples, apricots, peaches, oranges, lemons, limes, etcetera. And fresh vegetables. When Vancouver landed there during one of his voyages, the friar from Mission San Buenaventura brought up a small flock of sheep for provisioning the two ships under his command.

Presidio of SB in disrepair

Like all of the presidios – and missions – this fell into disrepair when Mexico gained its independence from Spain and took over California. The above picture was taken in 1880, well after the arrival of Americans and California's inclusion in the United States.

I'm posting it so you can see an example of a building made of adobe with the tile roof.

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