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Mission Santa Inés

La Misión de Santa Inés (Mission of St. Agnes [1]), sometimes spelled Mission Santa Ynes, was founded on September 17, 1804 by Father Estévan Tapis. Father José Calzada and Father Romualdo Gutiérrez remained at the Mission to begin the building and teaching of the Chumash Native Americans. Father Calzada and Father Gutiérrez are buried under the altar of the church. There were also five soldiers and their families at the new Mission, and Chumash neophytes from Mission Santa Barbara and Mission La Purísima Concepción de María Santísima. The census of 1806 recorded 132 neophytes from Santa Barbara, 145 from La Purísima, 570 local Chumash, and four white soldier’s children. The Padres maintained detailed records, which are in the local archives, and many more records are stored at Mission San Fernando.

Chumash neophytes learned ranching, farming, weaving, leather making for boots and saddles, and candle making. The Chumash built the aqueduct to carry water from the Alamo Pintado Creek 1.5 miles to the north (a tributary of the Santa Ynez River) to the reservoir and the lavenderia (laundry) building.

Mexican independence from Spain in 1821 shut off supplies and money to Spanish soldiers stationed in California, and their families became increasing impoverished. The families of the soldiers were increasingly reliant upon the missions, and the soldiers were not happy about the situation.

The Indian revolt of 1824 began at Mission Santa Inés when a visiting Chumash from La Purísima got into an argument with a Corporal named Cota. The Corporal began to strike the Chumash man, who then challenged the soldier by saying that the King would never allow the soldier to strike him. The soldier supposedly countered with, “We have no King, the General is our leader,” and began to whip the Chumash man. Other Chumash ran to inform La Purísima. A revolt broke out. The Chumash burned the soldier’s quarters, and the soldiers burned the Chumash houses. Soon the fire spread to the church. The Chumash themselves put out the church fire, and the boys ran to protect the vestments. The revolt spread to Mission Santa Barbara, and the revolt ended at Mission Santa Inés the next day.

Mission Santa Inés was secularized by the Mexican government in 1835. The Padres were replaced by governmental overseers as managers of the missions. The Spanish Franciscans were replaced by Mexican Franciscans, who were allowed only to care for the spiritual needs of the Chumash. The Chumash were mistreated under the new policy and began to desert the mission. The Chumash either returned to their villages or worked at the ranches of settlers.

The first  seminary in California (Our Lady of Refuge) was built at Santa Inés in 1844, at this site, to train young men to become priests. Another seminary building, renamed Our Lady of Guadalupe, was constructed later on lands about 1.5 miles from the Mission, granted by Governor Micheltorena. Along with the new seminary, the first primary school for settler’s sons was constructed. The entire tract of land was known as La Cañada de los Piños or College Ranch.

President Abraham Lincoln returned some of Mission Santa Inés to the Franciscans in 1862.

Restoration of the mission began when Father Alexander Buckler arrived at the mission in 1904. His niece, Mamie Goulet (later Abbott) began the restoration of discarded vestments. They rebuilt some of the mission buildings with the help of passing hobos who were housed in the garden. After the bell tower collapsed, it was rebuilt in 1911 with the help of the newly arrived Danish settlers of the town of Solvang, which grew up around the mission.

In 1924, Capuchin Franciscan Fathers from Ireland were assigned to Mission Santa Inés and began a major renovation in 1947. The Fathers added the second story to the convento, which was destroyed in the earthquake of 1812. The Fathers also created the museum and cataloged the art and artifacts that were discovered at the Mission. The Capuchin Fathers continue to serve the needs of the parish today, since the Mission functions as an active parish church of about 1000 families!

In 1999, the Department of the Interior designated Mission Santa Inés as a National Historic Site and noted that the fulling mill built in 1821 by Joseph Chapman was one of the earliest industrial sites in California.

This was our first visit to Mission Santa Inés, and the Mission immediately became one of my favorites (I tend to like rural missions that still function as parish churches for their communities). For me, the wonderfully maintained garden was a high point of the visit. The self-guided tour (take as much time as you like; no flash photography permitted – bring your tripod) begins with the museum (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). From there, you travel past the Madonna Altar to the interior of the church. During church services, the door from the museum to the church is locked. Along the way, there are boxes with recorded information about the Mission.

The interior of the church is magnificent (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).

External views of the Mission (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) and its hallways (1, 2, 3, 4) are also impressive. The number of arches remaining is less than originally existed, and a remnant of an arch has been preserved for vistors to learn about the construction.

Views of the cemetery (1, 2, 3) suggest far fewer than the thousands of actual burials. Representative markers (1, 2) and individual markers remain, including markers for the Irish clergy and a ranchero named Juan Cota.

Views of the garden are spectacular. The garden was originally a garden for food crops. Now, an ornamental garden presents the visitor with wonderful views at every turn (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13) and interesting stories, including one about a little Native American girl who saved the Mission.

The grounds of the Mission provide places for quiet contemplation as well as Stations of the Cross (1, 2).

I really enjoyed our visit to this Mission, which was ALIVE with the hustle and bustle of visitors and parishioners (even on a weekday) and the laughter of children in the areas of the Mission that are active in parish life. Inside the museum and the church, as well as in the cemetery and garden, it was very quiet, and we were alone most of the time.

By all means visit the Mission if you have the opportunity.

The contact information for Mission Santa Inés is: 1760 Mission Drive, Solvang, CA 93463 Phone: (805) 688-4815

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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