Mission Santa Inez


Multimedia Home Spiritual texts Links Mission & Bio

Santa Inez

Mission Santa Inez
Mission Interior
Mission Doorway
Mission Altar
Statue Detail
Mission Interior Rear
Mission Belltower

Nineteenth Mission
Date Founded: September 17, 1804
Founder: Father Estévan Tápis
Named for: Saint Agnes
1760 Mission Drive, P.O. Box 408
Solvang, CA 93464

From US 101, take the Solvang exit at Buellton (SR 246) east 4 miles to Mission Santa Inés, just beyond downtown Solvang.

Contact Information:
Phone: (805) 688-4815
Fax: (805) 686-4468
Linea en español: (805) 688-6763


Portuguese navigator Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was credited with the discovery of the Santa Barbara Channel during an exploratory voyage in October 1542, in which he claimed the land in the name of the Spanish king. Sixty years later Sebastian Viscaino named the channel in honor of Saint Barbara when he sailed in on the eve of the feast of St. Barbara, December 3, 1602.

In the following century, Franciscan Missionaries joined the Spanish military in settling alta or upper California with the goal of a political and spiritual conquest of the new land. The Spanish Missionary effort was to educate and convert the Indians to the Christian faith. As historian Maynard Geiger described it, "This was to be a cooperative effort, imperial in origin, protective in purpose, but primarily spiritual in execution."

The Spanish explorers and Missionaries were quite taken with the Indians of the Santa Barbara Channel region - the Chumash. The peaceful natives impressed the explorers with their friendliness, hospitality, creative abilities, and talents. The chaplain for the 1776 Anza Expedition, Father Pedro Font, described the Indians in his writings:

"I surmise that these Indians who are so ingenious and so industrious, would become experts if they had teachers and suitable tools or implements, for they have nothing more than flints, and with them and their steady industry they make artifacts."

The Chumash populated a wide area - from Santa Paula to San Luis Obispo. They had a diversified and interdependent economy based on their many talents and craftsmanship. The Chumash even developed an excellent astronomical system, which was on a par with Europe in terms of accuracy. Their small, well-organized villages, called rancherias by the Spanish-speaking settlers, were made up of many large huts built from poles interwoven with reeds. The Indians gathered and leached acorns, and they also harvested nuts, seeds, and berries. They were skilled fishermen and enjoyed a variety of sea food, and they hunted animals as well. Al though their only tool was flint, the resourceful Chumash created remarkably well-constructed sea-going plank canoes.

Previous to the founding of Mission Santa Inés, eighteen Missions had been established, each one being approximately one day's journey from the next. The first, Mission San Diego, was founded in 1769 by Father Junipero Serra, followed by the establishment of other Missions along the coast of California. After Father Serra's death, Father Fermin de Lasuen picked up the reins to continue the chain of Missions.

The founding of a Mission between La Purisima and Santa Barbara had been on the minds of the Missionary fathers for several years. An inland Mission north of Santa Barbara would solidify their work in the area; they would be able to take advantage of the Chumash Indians' already favorable disposition to being converted to Christianity - In addition, a very militant Indian tribe, the Tulares, lay to the northeast, just beyond the region controlled by the peaceful Chumash. A Mission in the Santa Ynez Valley would secure the region as a buffer zone.

After completing the initial chain of Missions to the north, Father Lasuen directed Father Estevan Tapis of Mission Santa Barbara to accompany Captain Felipe de Goycoechea to survey possible Mission sites northeast of the coastal mountains. In the fall of 1798 the expedition surveyed the Calahuasa rancheria (presently the Santa Ynez Indian Reservation) and another Chumash site called Alajulapu (presently Solvang). Father Tapis reported that there were 325 dwellings at 14 sites at Calahuasa, so Lasuen requested Governor Diego Borica to recommend Calahuasa as a suitable site for a new Mission.

It would be a number of years before the Franciscans were able to launch their new Mission. The governor died, so approval was then needed from his successor, Jose de Arrillaga, in Baja California. Unfamiliar with the area, Governor Arrillaga wrote to Father Lasuen in April 1803 concerning the number of guards that would be needed for the new Mission, but then Father Lasuen died.

In June of 1803 the new President of the Missions, Father Tapis, responded to Arrillaga's letter, detailing the number of Indians in the area and significant events such as the small group of Indian outlaws who had been committing murders throughout the region. In September the Father Guardian of the Franciscan order came from Mexico to survey the site and determined that a guard of six men would be sufficient to protect the Mission.

Establishment of Mission Santa Inez

In 1804 a row of buildings was constructed, measuring 232 feet in length and 19 feet in both height and width. This wing contained the temporary church (about 86 feet long), a sacristy (14 feet long) the padres' quarters (approximately 29 feet long), and the granary (103 feet long). With the aid of an initial group of Chumash converts from Missions Santa Barbara and La Purisima Concepción, this portion was constructed six months prior to the formal founding of Mission Santa Inés. The 30-inch-thick walls were made of adobe (regional soil that contained much clay). The roof consisted of poles over which sticks were laid side by side, then covered with a layer of adobe soil that hardened, thus sealing out the elements.

On September 17, 1804 Father Tapis officially dedicated the Mission to Saint Agnes. Mission Santa Ines was the nineteenth of the twenty-one California Spanish missions built by Franciscan priests. It was the first European settlement in the Santa Ynez Valley. A temporary brushwood shelter was constructed at which 200 Indians attended solemn High Mass. Twenty-seven children were baptized and fifteen men enlisted for instruction. Fathers José Rumualdo Gutiérrez and José Antonio Calzada were selected as the first resident priests, and by the end of 1804 the Baptismal Register already contained the names of 112 Indian converts of all ages.

Father Estévan Tápis, who had become superior of the missions following the death of Father Lasuén in 1803, had every reason to expect a prosperous future for the mission. However, Santa Inés did not measure up to the early indications of success. Its span of life was less than 32 years, and its greatest neophyte population, 768. In only two seasons did its grain harvests total over 10,000 bushels and its livestock remained between 9,000 and 10,000 head. Such a mission was hardly poor, but it did not fulfill the expectations of the fathers, despite the great number of "pagans" nearby.

Mission Life

In the end-of-the-year report for 1805, Fathers Caldaza and Gutierrez stated that another row of buildings similar to the first one had been erected; it was 145 feet in length and 19 feet high and wide. In the report at the end of the following year, 1806, Fathers Caldaza and Taboada noted that yet another building had been added, 368 feet in length. To protect the walls from rain, a gallery or corridor covered with tiles was built measuring 75 feet long and 6 feet wide. By this time the quadrangle typical of the California Missions had been completed at Mission Santa Inés, a square of about 350 feet on each side.

Although it was the last of the Southern California Missions, Mission Santa Inés was growing quickly because it could draw upon the support, tradition, and experience of the older, established Missions. In 1807 new dwellings were constructed for the Missionaries, and five double homes were built in 1810 for soldiers and their families, plus a storehouse and guardhouse.

Eight years of accomplishment and growth were damaged or destroyed in just fifteen minutes at the end of 1812. The year-end report of Fathers Uria and Olbes included the following observation of the great earthquake of 1812:

"December 21, 1812, at about 10 o'clock in the morning two earthquakes occurred at an interval of a quarter of an hour. The first made a considerable aperture in one corner of the church; the second shock threw down the said corner, and a quarter of the new houses contiguous to the church collapsed to the foundation. All the thin walls of the upper houses fell down, demolished all the tiles, and opened a main wall. All remain serviceable, however, if no greater tremors occur."

For safety, a temporary church was erected outside the quadrangle area. Reconstruction of the damaged buildings continued over the next four years, and a new and larger church facing east was built of adobe and brick. It measured 140 feet long, 25 feet wide, and 30 feet high, with heavily buttressed walls 5 feet thick. Heavy pine timbers brought from the San Rafael Mountains supported its ceiling and re-tiled roof The ceiling height was lowered on the residence of the friars, and the flat roof was replaced with a gabled roof covered with tiles. These buildings, which were dedicated on July 4, 1817, are all that remain today of the Mission from that era.

Despite these early struggles, the California Mission effort was developing and succeeding. The large communities of Indian converts allowed for the development of vast herds of cattle, and some Missions successfully raised ample acreage of grains, fruits, and other produce. The Missions were virtually at the peak of their productivity in the early 19th century. An 1817 inventory of Mission Santa Inés listed possessions of 6,000 head of cattle, 5,000 sheep, 120 goats, 150 pigs, 120 pack mules, and 770 horses. In that year; Mission Santa Inés lands produced 4,160 bushels of wheat, 4,330 bushels of corn, and 300 bushels of beans. The Mission baptismal book in 1817 recorded 1,030 names, most of which were Indian. Also recorded were 287 marriages and 611 deaths. The Mission registered its greatest Indian population that same year, with a total of 920 Native Americans.

From 1808 until 1824, Father Uria continually pushed an ambitious building program. In the initial years of the Mission, he oversaw the development of housing for the Missionaries and soldiers, as well as the construction of the storehouse. After the earthquake of 1812, he supervised the reconstruction of the church. It was Uria who saw to it that the church interior was decorated with murals between 1818 and 1820. He also directed the construction of the new grist mill and reservoirs in 1820; they were built with massive walls to avoid damage from future earthquakes. In 1824, the church interior was freshly painted and redecorated. During this year, numerous paintings and other church artifacts were acquired that can be seen in the Mission today.

Changes in the political air were soon to have their effect on Mission life. After the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence against Spain in 1810, support from Spain was no longer available to the Missions, which meant their activities had to be self-supporting. Furthermore, soldiers were not receiving their wages and supplies regularly. This pushed the presidio commanders to become increasingly, if not unreasonably, dependent on the Missions. The Missions were to supply food and clothing to the soldiers, for which they were given IOU receipts.

In 1810, the military in California was cast adrift. Supplies came to the soldiers rarely or not at all and the presidio commanders became increasingly dependent on the missions. This meant more labor for the Indians. In addition, the new governor was encouraging the Indians to ignore the orders of the padres. He also urged his soldiers to take temporal leadership within the missions. The Indians and the soldiers were soon antagonists.

In 1821 Mexico won its independence from Spain and two years later became its own republic. Although good news for Mexico, this initiated a difficult period for the Missions. Since the Mexicans identified the Missions with the imperialism of Spain, the Missions were ignored and allowed to deteriorate.

The Missions already were owed thousands of pesos of IOUs from the presidios. Antagonism grew as the soldiers compelled the Mission Indians to work overtime without pay over the objections of the Mission fathers. Ill-tempered and discontented because they themselves were without pay and supplies, many soldiers allowed their frustrations to affect the way they treated the Indians. In 1824 events and emotions were pushed to the boiling point.

A Spanish guard at Santa Inés flogged a Purisima Indian, setting off a revolt that touched all the Santa Barbara area Missions. In February, 1824, a group of well-armed Indians attacked the mission guard and set fire to many buildings. When it appeared the flames would destroy the church, their anger subsided and they helped save the edifice. All the workshops, soldiers' barracks and habitations of the guards were destroyed. After causing great destruction at Santa Barbara and La Purísima Concepción, the rebels fled to the Tulares. In the revolt against the Santa Inés soldier guards, two Indians were killed, several buildings were set on fire, and the priests became unwitting hostages with the soldiers' families with whom they took initial refuge. The revolt lasted several months, and before it was over fourteen Chumash lives were lost, including the two at Santa Inés. The Indians rightly feared reprisal from the soldiers and fled from the Missions to hide.

Ultimately, the Indians had no quarrel with the padres, whom they treated with deference and respect. However, the natives made it clear to the padres that the soldiers' attitudes and behavior were the reasons for the uprising. The Chumash felt that since they had worked on behalf of the soldiers without any pay and for an inordinate amount of time, they should have been treated with the utmost kindness, gratitude, and dignity Instead they received arrogant disrespect and derision.

During the revolt, the soldiers had unnecessarily destroyed some of the Indians' homes and possessions. The padres did not condone the actions of the Indians, but were quick to call the behavior of the Presidio personnel unreasonable, and in some cases inexcusable, especially the unjustifiable killings of the Indians.

Mission Santa Inés is closely linked to the adventurous life of Joseph Chapman, one of the earliest Anglo settlers in California. Originally from Maine, Joseph Chapman eventually came to Hawaii in 1818. During this time, the French pirate Hippolyte de Bouchard was sailing against Spain. After raiding the Philippines, he too arrived in Hawaii. Bouchard acquired an additional ship and an unwilling crew, including Joseph Chapman, and sailed for Spanish settlements in California in October 1818. Military and civilians were alerted up and down the coast to watch for the pirates. After a stop in Monterey, Bouchard's group sailed south to Santa Barbara. The pirates found the Ortega Ranch in Refugio Canyon conveniently deserted when they arrived, so they plundered the ranch and set it on fire. Sergeant Carlos Antonio Carrillo and his men lay in wait to ambush Bouchard outside Refugio. Chapman and several others were captured by the squad of soldiers.

Bouchard sailed to Santa Barbara under a flag of truce and asked the Presidio for an exchange of prisoners. In the process, Chapman somehow ended up freed from Bouchard, but was held as a temporary prisoner in the Presidio. Upon his release, he became a model citizen. He was baptized as a Catholic at Mission San Buenaventura and later married Guadalupe Ortega (of the Ortega Ranch) at Mission Santa Inés. Chapman and his wife moved to Santa Ynez, where he was employed at the Mission. In 1821 Chapman constructed the Mission's fulling mill (for treating woolen garments), which was built near the grist mill.


The ratification of Mexico's Secularization Laws in 1834 caused the Mission system to rapidly draw to a close. The Mexican legislative assembly had passed a decree allowing the Mission properties to become "secularized" over the following ten years. This meant the Missions were to be transferred from the jurisdiction of the Missionaries of religious orders (which were mostly Spanish in California) to a bishop who would administer them through diocesan or "secular" priests (not part of a religious order). In effect, the Mexicans were trying to eliminate the Spanish influence; the Missions were then reduced to parish churches.

The problem with this was that in many cases there were no secular personnel or diocesan personnel available to run the Missions. As a "parish church" Mission Santa Inés had no governmental support. The Mission fathers initially maintained themselves from the income gained from the sale of cattle, tallow, hides, and from what grain could be harvested.

The resulting conditions were disheartening for the Indians, who received little or no recompense for their labors and were required to pay the salary of the secular "administrators". The result was that many Chumash simply fled. This aggravated the decline of the Mission system, since there were no longer enough Indians to attend to the crops and cattle and maintain the buildings

In July, 1836, the greater part of Santa Inés passed into the hands of the civil administrators and, except for the short and stormy rule of Governor Micheltoreña from 1842 to 1845, the mission fell upon evil days. While Micheltoreña's avid Royalist sympathies led him into conflict with the provincials and ultimately caused his flight from California, he was friendly to the padres. Although his restoration of the missions to the Franciscans was generally ignored, it did benefit some of the stations, especially Santa Inés.

Here the governor and the bishop of California entered into a very successful legal arrangement, which may have been deliberately designed to evade the effects of secularization. The governor returned some 36,000 acres of former mission lands, not to the mission but as a gift to the dioceses for the purpose of founding a college of religious education. When Pio Pico sold the last of the mission property in 1846, he had not yet been able to seize the college lands. The college continued as an active seminary, first under the Franciscans and then under the Christian Brothers, until the success of more convenient schools induced the Church to sell the school lands to private owners in 1882.

Decline and Rebirth

In 1843 Governor Manuel Micheltorena tried to halt the secularization. He had about 35,500 acres of land transferred from Mission Santa Inés to Francisco Garcia Diego y Moreno, the first Bishop of Alta California. This land grant was used to establish the first college seminary in California. Originally situated in the Mission Santa Inés compound in 1844, the college seminary later moved to the College Ranch near Santa Ynez where it continued to educate priests and the general public until it closed in 1881.

The sympathetic Micheltorena was replaced in 1846 by Governor Pio Pico, whose policies accelerated the despoiling of the Missions. In June of 1846 he illegally sold Mission Santa Inés to José M. Covarrubias and José Joaquin Carrillo for $7,000, just three weeks before the United States took control of California.

Fathers J. J. Jimeno and Francisco Sanchez continued in charge of the college seminary until May 7, 1850 when they surrendered the management of Mission Santa Inés to priests of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (Picpus Fathers of South America). The arrival and brief stay of the Picpus Fathers at Mission Santa Inés marked the end of Franciscan management and the Mission period.

Father Eugene O'Connell succeeded the Picpus Fathers in the summer of 1851. He made various improvements that included laying the first asphalt floors, some of which can still be seen in the garden area.

In 1851 the United States government rescinded the illegal sale of the Mission lands by Pio Pico. A decree signed by President Lincoln on May 23,1862 formally returned the Missions to the Catholic Church, with possession given to the Bishop of Monterey, since the Franciscans were no longer at the Mission.

In 1877 supervision of the college seminary was transferred to the Christian Brothers, who remained until 1881 when financial problems led to their departure. The Bishop sold off 20,000 acres, reducing Mission Santa Inés to less than half of its size, with 16,000 acres remaining. In 1882 the Donahue family came from Ireland to live at the Mission. For 16 years they resided in the southern half of the rectory and, despite a lack of funds, set themselves to the task of making repairs and re-roofing. However, the scope of repairing the quickly deteriorating structures was beyond any one family. The southern section of the front corridor collapsed in 1884, and soon the adjacent building fell into ruin, leaving only the buttressed arch, currently preserved within the parking area.

A new period began for Mission Santa Inés in July of 1904, when diocesan priest Father Alexander Buckler became pastor with jurisdiction over the outlying stations of Lompoc, Sisquoc, and Las Cruces.

He began a concerted effort to maintain and restore the Mission buildings and their contents. Besides addressing the basic needs of better shelter; he constructed a water and drainage system and reinforced much of the padres' crumbling quarters. Father Buckler had the church and parts of the rectory re-roofed and removed the crumbling adobes at the rear. During an exceptionally heavy rainstorm in 1911, the bell tower; already weakened from age, collapsed. The following year Father Buckler rebuilt it and added a third arch.

Among the most cherished possessions of the Mission are the vestments. Father Buckler sought the assistance of his niece, Miss Mamie Goulet, to repair the vestments, as well as some of the paintings and statuary.

When Father Buckler retired in November 1924, an offer was made to return Mission Santa Inés to the Franciscans. The Franciscan superior declined to accept, so the offer was extended to the Capuchin Franciscan Order of the Irish Province.

A first concern of the Capuchin Franciscans was the installation of electric lighting and modern plumbing to improve living conditions at the Mission. The inner garden of the Mission was given a more formal appearance in 1926, with the planting of a hedge in the shape of a Celtic cross.

The expansive garden behind the Mission is a lovely surprise for many visitors. Dating to the Mission's earliest days, the garden has undergone many changes; it currently retains the formal design of a hedge in the shape of a Celtic cross implemented by the Capuchin Franciscans in 1926.


The church at the mission was never actually abandoned and, in 1882, an astute mission padre invited the family of a stone mason to live at Santa Inés. Soon, there was a notable improvement in the appearance of the buildings and the long process of restoration may be said to have begun at this time. Father Alexander Buckler began a systematic program of improvement in 1904, which was continued until his death in 1930. About 1923, the Capuchin Franciscan Fathers were placed in charge of the mission.

The Capuchins began full restoration of the Mission in 1947. When workmen removed the roof from part of the building, they discovered several rooms that had been used as living quarters in the previous century by the Mission fathers. This revealed an open balcony with rooms behind it above the arches. Extensive repairs were made to the roof of the church and the rectory, and sections of the south end of the building were thoroughly remodeled.

This project restored the building to its two-story condition as it might have appeared prior to the earthquake of 1812. The bell tower was remodeled to conform to its original design, as confirmed by artwork and photographs prior to its collapse in 1911. Red tile flooring unearthed during the project affirmed that the Mission edifice originally had 22 arches, and not 21 as previously believed. A Mission bell was shipped to Rotterdam for recasting, returning in time to ring out in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Mission Santa Inés in 1954.

The Chapel of the Madonna was created during this period and numerous restoration projects were initiated. A radiation heating system was installed in the church under the original restored tile floor to preserve the Mission's priceless paintings and other artwork by moderating the damp conditions. The entire Mission was painted and weatherproofed. Improved irrigation and drainage systems were installed for the various refurbished and re-landscaped gardens. In 1954 a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes made in Obergammergau was installed in the shrine next to the cemetery.

Foundation stones of the original Mission quadrangle may still be found at the northwest corner of the Mission grounds. The original quadrangle, which measured 350 feet square with walls 20 feet high, contained all that was necessary for the Mission at that time: a tannery, blacksmith and potter's shops, facilities for weaving and basket making, a soap factory, and other work areas. Two new bronze bells named "Santa Inés" and "Saint Francis" were cast and installed in the bell tower in 1984.

In August of 1989 the 18th annual Fiesta celebrated many years of hard work - in particular the culmination of a million-dollar renovation and restoration project for the east wing. Key to this project was the reconstruction of eight of the nineteen arches that form the eastern facade of the building. This recreated the Mission's facade as it would have appeared prior to its secularization by the Mexican government in 1834. The restoration of 1989 restored the east wing (the "convento") to nearly it's original length. This part of the original structure had fallen due to lack of maintenance, and all that remained was half of what was orginally the 19th of 22 arches. It was decided to keep this original arch standing both as a reminder of the original building as well as of the neglect and abuse that the missions had suffered under the "secularization." The new portion of the convento building now houses a large parish hall, complete with kitchen facilities, and two conference rooms. All are used by the parish as well as area groups for meetings, dances, etc. Inside the hall are several large paintings done by local artists depicting the various eras of mission life as well as the present life of the parish. Restoration efforts of the Mission paintings became a focus in 1992 and are ongoing.

Five Franciscan padres lie buried under the tile floor of the mission church and the scene which surrounds the simple markers differs little from its early day appearance. Many of the wall designs were painted over in a mistaken attempt to clean the church interior. They are now being slowly uncovered to join the majority of decorations which are still in their original state. A number of striking wooden figures stand about the church but the place of honor is given to Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, who looks proudly down from her niche in the center of the altar. This figure is said to have been created by one or more native artists of the mission.

The historical museum at Santa Inés is one of the best in the mission chain. The excellent condition of many of the items can be attributed to long years of work devoted to the project by Fr. Buckler's housekeeper and niece, Mary Goulet. Although many of the missions pride themselves on their collection of early vestments, the five years of effort that Miss Goulet gave to the collection, repair and documentation of old ritual garments has produced an outstanding exhibit. There is also an extensive display of Latin missals and handmade parchment music books, some far older than the mission. The old paintings which adorn the walls invite the usual speculation whether one or more of them might be the neglected work of some ancient master. They have been seen by many visitors with a wide knowledge of art, however, and no one has yet reported a classic discovery.

The old wooden doors of the mission are marked by the wavy indented design that appears throughout the mission chain. This design is not merely a chance decoration, for it symbolizes the River of Life and is there to remind all those who enter of the eternities.