Mentioned as the “ Queen of the California Missions” in Lane Publishing Company’s pictorial book about the missions. I find it somewhat of a contradiction or a counter archetypical description for a building that is large and bulky and has a closer resemblance to ancient Rome than to building styles that were typical for the early California Frontier. When I think California Mission, I always think adobe, low large eves neatly adored by red tiles with a modest entryway. Santa Barbara is anything but, that. Nestled in an area rich in architectural history and its namesake being synonymous with all things “Spanish” or “Mission Style”. It is a little ironical that the Romanesque Façade, supposedly copied from a book on Architecture by Vitruvias, First Century Roman would be typified as the “Queen”. Franciscan father Antonio Ripoll can be credited for implementing the Vitruvias inspired design and perhaps was looking towards the old world when he wanted to create a permanent church that was worthy of the natural beauty that surrounded it.
With two identical bell towers, the only mission amongst the 21 to have them, it’s lush gardens, Moorish inspired fountain, well designed irrigation system and morbid reminder of our own mortality by way of human sculls embedded over a doorway that leads to the cemetery, Santa Barbara was definitely inspired by a higher calling, perhaps GOD or in this case one can easily see how the natural beauty around the area inspires one to see GOD in it.