rain on the roof and instant coffee


Portions of U.S. Route 101, California State Route 1 (Pacific Coast Highway), California State Route 82, and San Diego County Route S11 are named El Camino Real, which means “The Royal Road” in Spanish. Historically, El Camino Real refers to the 600-mile California Mission Trail which connects the 21 missions in California.

Between 1683 and 1834, Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries established a series of religious outposts from today’s Baja California and Baja California Sur into present-day California. The Spanish missions in California were established by Catholic priests of the Franciscan order between 1769 and 1833 to spread Christianity among the local Native Americans. The missions were part of the first major effort by Europeans to colonize the Pacific Coast region, the most northern and western of Spain’s North American claims. The most famous of the Franciscan missionaries is Junipero Serra who founded the first nine of the 21 Spanish missions that stretch from San Diego to San Francisco.

Today, we visit Mission San Buenaventura in Ventura, CA, the last of Junipero Serra’s nine missions.


Mission San Buenaventura was founded on March 21, 1782 and named for Saint Bonaventure. “Bonaventure” means “good fortune”. The mission is less than a half-mile from the ocean and is also known as the “Mission by the Sea”.
Serra left Padre Cambon in charge of the mission. Cambon supervised the building of an aqueduct of both ditches and raised channel by the native Chumash between 1805 and 1815.
Mexican artisans were imported by the Spanish government in 1770 until 1800 to serve as laborers and instructors to the neophyte Indians who lived at the missions. The ability to build solid masonry structures contributed to the survival of the missions.

ruins of the aqueduct

The San Buenaventura Mission Aqueduct was seven miles long and brought water from the Ventura River to holding tanks behind the mission. With plentiful water, the mission was able to maintain orchards and gardens. The aqueduct served the mission until the system was destroyed by the floods in 1862.
Mission San Buenaventura’s surrounding soil was excellent and many crops were grown. In addition, the lands supported herds of cattle, sheep, horses, and mules. In 1816 (the peak year) the mission had over 41,000 animals including 23,400 cattle, 12,144 sheep and 4,493 horses. Whaling ships anchored near the mission to replenish their stores and trade for cured cattle hides.
Growing enough food to support the mission and the military installations they were contracted to supply was extremely important. None of the missions were ever fully self-sufficient and received financial support from Spain. By 1819, Spain decided to limit its reach in the New World to Northern California due to costs. The northernmost settlement is Mission San Francisco Solano, founded in Sonoma in 1823. An attempt to found a twenty-second mission in Santa Rosa in 1827 was aborted.
The building shown here is the parish rectory.
These two Norfolk pines are over a hundred years old. They were supposedly planted by a sea captain who had hoped to grow a forest of them for use as ships’ masts.
In November and December 1818, several of the missions were attacked by Hipólito Bouchard, “California’s only pirate.” A French privateer sailing under the flag of Argentina, Pirata Buchar (as he was known to the locals) worked his way down the California coast, conducting raids on the installations at Monterey, Santa Barbara, and San Juan Capistrano, with limited success.
Mission Buenaventura was evacuated for a month but was ultimately spared. Other missions were not as lucky, including Mission Santa Cruz which — although ignored by Bouchard — was looted by those entrusted to protect it from the pirate.
Bouchard wanted to take Mission Santa Barbara, but upon observing what he thought were numerous troops of cavalry defending the city, he abandoned the idea. In reality, there was only one troop of cavalry and it changed uniform behind a heavy clump of vegetation before parading out multiple times, thus giving the appearance of several different troops.
The purpose of missions was to assimilate indigenous populations into European culture and the Catholic religion. Oftentimes, this had negative consequences on the native populace.
The measles epidemic of 1806 wiped out one-quarter of the mission Native American population of the San Francisco Bay between March and May of that year.
Once a Native American was baptized, they were labeled a neophyte, or new believer. Neophytes were expected to labor and worship at the mission under strict rules and they were not allowed to return to their previous settlements which the padres considered “undisciplined”. If a neophyte did not report for their duties for a period of a few days, they were searched for, and if it was discovered that they had left without permission, they were considered runaways. Captured or returned runaways received corporal punishment.
The work day was six hours, interrupted by dinner (lunch) around 11:00 a.m. and a two-hour siesta, and ended with evening prayers and the rosary, supper, and social activities. About 90 days out of each year were designated as religious or civil holidays, free from manual labor. Indians were not paid wages as they were not considered free laborers
Our Lady of Grace shrine.
The first native Mexican elected Governor of Alta California issued a “Proclamation of Emancipation”on July 25, 1826. All Indians within the military districts of San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Monterey who were found qualified were freed from missionary rule and made eligible to become Mexican citizens. Those who wished to remain under mission tutelage were exempted from most forms of corporal punishment.
In 1833, the Mexican Congress passed An Act for the Secularization of the Missions of California. The vast mission land holdings were divided into land grants which became many of the Ranchos of California (like Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit which eventually became the city of Malibu).
In 1845 San Buenaventura Mission was first rented and then illegally sold to Don Jose Arnaz. After California became a state of the Union, Bishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany petitioned the United States Government to return the Mission holdings comprising the church, clergy residence, cemetery, orchard, and vineyard to the Catholic Church. The request was granted in the form of a Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln on May 23, 1862.

the mission circa 1875

(you may click to embiggen)

I would have taken pictures of the church interior, but there was a ceremony taking place when I visited.
In 1893, Father Cyprian Rubio “modernized” the interior of the church, painting over the original artwork, lengthening the windows, covering the beamed ceiling and tile floor. He demolished the quadrangle formed by the old buildings as seen in the historic photograph above.
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.
Today all that remains of the original Mission is the church and its garden.



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thanks to Wikipedia, missionscalifornia.com, and the Internet for the fun facts
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