Friday, July 28, 2017

San Buenaventura Mission

  You don't have to look far to see the Spanish influence in California. With names like San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Monica it seems pretty obvious. We had nothing much going on so we decided to head into Ventura to visit the San Buenaventura Mission.
  At 241 years old the United States is young compared to the rest of the world but that doesn't mean that we are lacking in old structures and the California missions are a prime example of that. The San Buenaventura mission was founded in 1782 but burned to the ground shortly after. The building that we see today started construction in 1795 but wasn't completed until 1809. The mission did have an old feel to it but at the same time felt more like a dated chapel from the 1970's rather than the 1800's to me. I imagine that routine maintenance on the building may have something to do with that but really it's just my opinion.

  We entered the mission through a gift shop filled with plenty of religious pictures and statues that you could take home. Not sure why but this seemed really strange to me but who am I to argue? We payed an entry fee ($4) and were given a choice. We could proceed and take the self guided tour now or we could come back a little later after the wedding was over. Wait. What? Yes they had a wedding going on and they were still letting tours go through the mission. So we took the tour.

  Okay, full disclosure, the ceremony was already over and they were just taking photos out in the grounds between buildings. Not a big deal. I couldn't in good conscious walk through a chapel while a wedding was taking place. Maybe they shut it down during that time but we didn't ask. 
  The first room was filled with old books and other items that had been used during the mission's history. Not being a Catholic I have no idea what most of the items were but they were still cool to look at. One display had two wooden bells that had hung in the mission when it first opened. Time has taken its toll on the bells and their brittle structures are slowly giving way to old age. Another display has a hand written letter from Thomas Jefferson. It's true that you just never know what you'll come across in a museum.
  There are paintings inside the chapel that tell the story of Jesus' crucifixion. The artworks are over 250 years old and are still in great shape. The room didn't feel very large. I suppose back when it was built the mission probably didn't see the crowds that SoCal has today and with only a few tourists walking through it seemed extra  quiet, like people were afraid to speak. I think that's the norm since every church that I've been through that offers tours seems to be that way. I'm not saying it's bad, just feels strange.
  Overall we spent about an hour at the mission. It really isn't that big, after all. I have a great respect for the builder when their creation has stood for such a great span of time. The missions were built to convert the Native Americans and to supply fruits and cattle to the area. While what the Spanish did to the locals has been described as oppressive and abusive it is still part of the history of the area and the thought of walking through a building that has seen so much history is interesting to me. 
  There are twenty one missions that you can visit throughout California. While you may not want to center an entire trip around seeing them all I would recommend dropping into one of them while you are in the area just to experience one for yourself. You might want to dress for the occasion, however. You may find yourself standing with a new bride and groom during your visit.


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