During Fiesta, the Santa Barbara Mission welcomes thousands of people for events such as La Fiesta Pequeña and La Misa de Presidenta. But these events don’t explore the rich history of the Mission itself, which is why the Mission offers increased tours of the Mission grounds.
Docent-led tours are usually at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday, but they occur twice a day during Fiesta, while the Special Treasures Tour, which shows off a larger part of the grounds, is available by making a reservation two weeks in advance.
Monica Langhorne has been a docent for three years and guided the Thursday Special Treasures Tour. Eleven people, including Ms. Langhorne’s daughter, followed her around as she expanded on the history of the Mission, the role of the Chumash Indians and the importance of the missions in Spain’s colonization of the New World.
It was the second installation created in Santa Barbara, with the first being the Presidio.
The Archives-Library hold a host of items, such as a beautifully illustrated and colored hymn book from the 1700s. Other historical items included the keys to a crypt located underneath the altar of the church, a letter written by Father Junipero Serra, and paintings of all 21 missions in California.
The tour explored the various statues and artifacts around the Mission grounds, including California’s oldest statue, the Moorish-Spanish fountain that was built by the Chumash and the cemetery, where 4,000 Chumash were cremated and buried alongside various Spanish, Mexican and American individuals who had an impact on the Mission.
The tour ended at the Mission museum, which has a new exhibit, on Juana Maria, who spent 18 years on San Nicolas Island before she was found and brought to Santa Barbara, where she later died.
Ms. Langhorne, who was married at the Mission, said that it is a “great spot” to volunteer and said the Mission is significant in the state’s history.
“We’re always looking for more docents. And they’re all very dedicated and a great group. You meet interesting people when you give a tour and you meet people from all over the world,” Ms. Langhorne said.
Monica Orozco, executive director of the Mission, has expanded upon the importance of the Mission in California and Santa Barbara history.
“It is extremely important for Santa Barbara history,” she said. “You only have to go around town and see everybody use the bell towers as the symbol for their business or the word ‘mission’ in their business name to know how important the Mission is to Santa Barbara,” she said.
The Mission also is important for Santa Barbara financially and culturally.
“A lot of people who come to Santa Barbara and bring their tourism dollars, often come to the Mission. I think we’re often the No. 1 place that people come. And by offering the homes of the friars for Fiesta Pequeña … we’re contributing to the community,” Ms. Orozco said.