“Commenced on the appropriate day of the holy titular patroness” — California State Quarter Coin

Today, the California State Quarter Coin remembers when the Mission Santa Barbara was dedicated on December 4, 1786, also known as Saint Barbara’s Day.

From the Mission Santa Barbara: Early Days in Alta California by Colin H. McIsaac, published in 1917:


It was at this time Father Serra’s most urgent desire to found Mission Santa Barbara* at once, but between himself and Governor Neve had arisen more or less friction concerning methods of governing and controlling the Indians.

Father Serra stood firmly for the establishment of new Missions upon the same lines hitherto followed, which he held had been and were strictly in accordance with the duties assigned Franciscans under Spanish law, and withal successful; while Governor Neve proposed quite a different plan of procedure.

Sadly disappointed at this enforced delay, Father Serra soon left Santa Barbara Presidio in the spiritual care of Father Dumetz, and traveled on foot to San Carlos Mission, at Monterey.

In August, 1783, he sailed from San Francisco for San Diego, and in September of the same year, when seventy years of age and greatly weakened by illness, began his last memorable Confirmation Tour, traveling overland on foot from San Diego, up-coast, visiting all the Missions and Indian settlements, and arriving at Mission San Carlos in January, 1784.

Junipero Serra died at Mission San Carlos de Monterey y del Rio Carmelo on August 28, 1784, and lies buried beneath the altar in that Mission.

Under Father Francisco Palou, appointed to temporarily fill Father Serra’s place, conditions for the founding of Mission Santa Barbara were no more favorable than they had been.

But in 1785 Father Fermin F. de Lasuen became Father President, and gave his official attention at once to preparations for the fulfillment of Father Serra’s cherished hope, but the actual founding of Mission Santa Barbara was delayed until Saint Barbara’s Day, December 4th, as Father Serra had been especially devout to this virgin saint and martyr.

Experience had taught the Franciscans the advisability of having Missions at a distance from Presidios, as the morals of the soldiers did not afford desirable example to Mission Indians, and for this reason Santa Barbara Mission was located on a spot about a mile northwest of the Presidio, on a beautiful plateau, where was available a plentiful supply of water from what is now Mission Creek, but then called Arroyo Pedregosa.

Here the Mission was formally dedicated on December 4, 1786, as narrated in the following entry, signed by Father Lasuen, in the records of the Parochial Church of Santa Barbara:

“Commenced on the appropriate day of the holy titular patroness, December 4, A. D., 1786. On the afternoon of which day, no higher solemnity having been permitted, I, the undersigned Fr. Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, Presidente of the Missions of said and by said College Apostolic, proceeded accompanied by three other missionaries, from the Presidio to this place, blessed water, and thereupon dedicated the land to God, our Lord, and in like manner blessed a large cross which we raised and venerated.

“We then recited the Litany of the Saints, chanting the Antiphon, with a prayer to our holy patroness. His Excellency the Governor arrived on the 14th of the above named month and year and removed the restraining order imposed on us and concluded to remain and witness the founding already begun in this place.

“On the 16th, after preparing a brush hut near the cross, I, in the presence of the Governor, sang Mass—first in this spot—in which the Rev. Fr. Apostolic Antonio Paterna also officiated and likewise delivered a short address on the subject.

“May it be for the higher honor and glory of God, the exaltation of his most holy name and the good of souls. Fr. Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, Presidente.”

Mission Santa Barbara was thus founded, but no buildings were undertaken until the spring of 1787, when a house for the missionaries, 15 x 45 feet in size, was erected on the site of the present structure to the left of the Mission Church.

Then a chapel, or church was built, about 15 x 40 feet, a servants’ room, a granary, a house for the unmarried women, and one for the unmarried men.

These buildings were of adobe, with walls about three feet thick, and roofs of heavy rafters, to which were tied long poles or canes.

Soft clay, covered with a thatch of straw, was spread over these poles. After 1788 tiles were made, replacing the straw roofs, which were no longer used.

At the end of 1787, one year after the founding, 185 Indians had been gathered at the Mission.


* Concerning the name Santa Barbara, and the life of Saint Barbara, a few words of narrative will be of interest.

Without doubt the name Santa Barbara, used by the early voyagers upon the Pacific Coast, was given to the Santa Barbara Channel and adjacent mainland and islands by one of the Franciscan Friars who accompanied Vizcaino, the Spanish explorer, in 1602.

Sailing through Santa Barbara Channel, this expedition landed on December 4th, the anniversary of the death of Saint Barbara, but whether upon the mainland or islands is somewhat obscure.

Of Saint Barbara, titular patroness, the records inform that she was a Roman maiden of rank, born A. D. 218, in Nicomedia, a city of Northern Asia Minor.

During the reign of Alexander Severus, an emperor friendly to Christians, Barbara was converted to Christianity.

Under Emperor Maximinus, after the assassination of Severus, the Christians were relentlessly persecuted, and Dioscorus, father of Barbara, personally participated in the cruelties devised against them.

Barbara, then but seventeen years of age, pleaded with her father to spare the Christians, thus awakening in him the suspicion that she had embraced the faith so objectionable to him.

By means of cruel torments and torturing confinements he tried to force her to abjure her religion. Failing in this, he finally slew her with his own hand.

She was thereafter revered as a saint by the Christians, and by some of the nations venerated as the patroness against thunder and lightning, firearms and sudden death.


The California State Quarter Coin shows with an image of the Mission Santa Barbara.

California State Quarter Coin