Mission History

Mission in the 1800's
The Mission in the 1800's

The Mission Today
Mission Basilica today

One point of interest in the Mission is found behind the Mission building itself. Three Padres are buried there: Padre Vicente de Santa Maria, who died 16 July 1806; Padre Jose Senan, who died 25 August 1823; and Padre Francisco Suner, who died 17 Janaury 1831.

The pastoral successors to St. Junipero Serra at San Buenaventura Mission

Click here to view a reconstruction of the Mission Quadrangle circa 1818

Click here to view a reconstruction of the 1818 Mission Quadrangle with modern street overlay 

Click here to view Mission Tour Map 2020

Click here to view a reconstruction of the Sta. Gertrudis Chapel

Click here to view Mission Garden Educational Plaques on Chumash Daily Life, Mission Agriculture and Animals, Mission Quadrangle 1800s, Blessed Junipero Serra, Founding of the Missions, and the Acqueduct System.

Click here to learn more about the religious art in the Mission 

1917 Mission History: Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo Counties

Holy Cross School Archaeological Project: 1998-2000

More Mission information for purchase is available through our Mission Gift ShopThe founding of San Buenaventura Mission traces to the decision on Palm Sunday, March 30, 1749 by the Franciscan priest, now known as Saint Junipero Serra, to journey to the New World as a missionary to the native peoples.

The founding of San Buenaventura Mission traces to the decision on Palm Sunday, March 30, 1749 by the Franciscan priest Junipero Serra to journey to the New World as a missionary to the native peoples.  (Padre Serra was canonized a Saint by Pope Francis on September 23, 2015.)

Thirty-three years and one day later Saint Junipero Serra raised the Cross at "la playa de la canal de Santa Barbara" (the beach of the Santa Barbara Channel) on Easter Morning, March 31, 1782. Assisted by Padre Pedro Benito Cambon, he celebrated a High Mass, preached on the Resurrection, and dedicated a Mission to San Buenaventura (St. Bonaventure). It had been planned as the third in the chain of twenty-one Missions founded by Padre Serra but was destined to be the ninth and last founded during his lifetime, and one of six he personally dedicated.

Under the direction of Padre Cambon, whom Saint Junipero Serra left in charge of the new Mission, a system of aqueducts were built by the Native Americans, the First People of the Land, known as the Chumash between 1805–1815 to meet the needs of the Mission population and consisted of both ditches and elevated stone masonry. The watercourse ran from a point on the Ventura River about ½ mile north of the remaining ruins and carried the water to holding tanks behind the San Buenaventura Mission, a total of about 7 miles (11 km). With plentiful water the Mission was able to maintain flourishing orchards and gardens, which were described by English navigator George Vancouver as the finest he had seen. The entire water distribution system was destroyed by floods and abandoned in 1862.

The Mission’s first church building was destroyed by fire. The construction of a second church was abandoned because "the door gave way." In 1792 work was in progress on the present church and the small utility buildings which (with the church) formed a quadrangle enclosing a plaza. Although half finished in 1795, the church was not completed until 1809. Dedication was held September 9 of that year and the first liturgical services took place September 10. At about that time the San Miguel Chapel (present corner of Thompson Boulevard and Palm Street) and the Santa Gertrudis Chapel (Highway 33 near Foster Park) were completed.

A series of earthquakes and an accompanying tidal wave in 1812 forced the padres and Indian neophytes to seek temporary shelter a few miles inland. Six years later the padres and their flock had to remove sacred objects from the church and flee into the hills to elude a pirate who was pillaging the Missions but fortunately was headed off after a "bargaining session" at El Refugio in Santa Barbara.

The Mexican government in 1833 issued a secularization decree divesting the padres of administrative control over the Missions. In 1845 San Buenaventura Mission was rented to Don Jose De Arnaz and Narciso Botello and was later illegally sold to Don Jose De Arnz. After California became a state of the Union, Bishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany petitioned the United States Government to return that part of the Mission holdings comprising the church, clergy residence, cemetery, orchard, and vineyard to the Catholic Church. The request was granted in the form of a Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln on May 23, 1862.

Because of severe earthquake damage in 1857 the Mission’s tile roof was replaced by a shingle roof.In 1893, Father Cyprian Rubio "modernized" the interior of the church, painting over the original artwork; when he finished, little of the old church was untouched. The windows were lengthened with five 4'x12' stained glass, the beamed ceiling and tile floor were covered, and the remnants of the quadrangle were razed. The west sacristy was removed to provide room for a school, which was not actually built until 1921. During the pastorate of Father Patrick Grogan the roof of the church was once again tiled, the convent and present rectory were built, and a new fountain was placed in the garden.

The education of children at San Buenaventura Mission has flourished intermittently since 1829 (during Mexican rule) and continuously since September 5,1922. Originally a four-classroom structure, Holy Cross School served its students and the parish admirably since its 1922 dedication. In 1925 it was expanded to accommodate growth and in 1949 a subsequent renovation brought it out to Main Street (El Camino Real) with no space left for further expansion.

In a major restoration under the supervision of Father Aubrey J. O’Reilly in 1956-1957 the stained glass windows were removed and the windows were reconstructed to their original size.  The ceiling and floor were uncovered. A long-time parishioner commissioned the casting of a bell with an automatic angelus device and donated it to the Mission; it hangs in the belltower above the four ancient hand-operated bells.

The second half of the twentieth century brought more growth, as well as wear-and-tear and obsolescence, and the school's problems far exceed spatial deficiency. In response to this situation, the San Buenaventura Mission parish, under the leadership of Monsignor Patrick J. O'Brien, formed a Planning and Development Committee comprising parishioners, faculty, parish staff, and parents, and in June 1994 hired the downtown firm of MainStreet Architects and Planners to prepare a conceptual master site plan for the Mission properties, incorporating the design of a new school and an adjoining Multi-Purpose Building which would serve both school and parish. This plan also necessitated the deconstruction of the Convent and the two remaining Holy Cross Sisters moved into the larger St. Catherine by the Sea convent, a short distance from the Mission.

The entire roof of the church was removed and replaced in 1976. In December of that year the church was solemnly consecrated by Timothy Cardinal Manning. In 1982 the Mission marked its bicentennial anniversary. A new three story school building, with pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and grades 1-8 located at the base of the hill behind the Mission was dedicated in January 2001. The school also houses the Serra Chapel for Eucharistic Adoration, adult classrooms, a parish/school kitchen, and a large assembly hall used as a school auditorium and for large parish gatherings and one Sunday Mass. The assembly room was named after Monsignor Patrick O'Brien who was the pastor of the church for 25 years until his sudden death in 2005. The Mission celebrated its 225th Anniversary with a year-long series of events and activities during 2006-07.

Today all that remains of the original Mission is the church and its garden. A small museum sits at the Mission with displays of Chumash Indian artifacts and mission-era items. The Church remains an active Catholic Parish serving approximately 1200 families. Pope Francis elevated the Mission to a minor basilica on June 9, 2020, the first basilica in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties). Mass and sacraments are celebrated in the parish church. The current pastor is Father Tom Elewaut, who has served since 2011.

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JULY 2024
Ministry Schedule

Holy Days
of Obligation

4:00 - 5:00 PM

Eucharistic Adoration/
Adoración Eucarística:
Serra Chapel / Capilla Serra
Monday 6 AM- Thursday 6 AM 
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