San Buenaventura

Mission San Buenaventura

Mission San Buenaventura was founded on Easter Sunday, March 31, 1782 in Las Californias, part of the Spanish Viceroyalty of New Spain. Named for a Franciscan theologian, Saint Bonaventure, it was the last of the missions founded by Father Serra. Mission San Buenaventura was planned to be founded in the year 1770, but the founding was delayed because of the low availability of the military escorts needed to establish Mission San Buenaventura. In 1793, the first church burned down. It took the neophytes 16 years to build the new church, which still stands today.


The current prevailing theory postulates that Paleo-Indians entered the Americas from Asia via a land bridge called "Beringia" that connected eastern Siberia with present-day Alaska (when sea levels were significantly lower, due to widespread glaciation) between about 15,000 to 35,000 years ago. The remains of Arlington Springs Man on Santa Rosa Island are among the traces of a very early habitation in California, dated to the last ice age (Wisconsin glaciation) about 13,000 years ago. The first humans are therefore thought to have made their homes among the southern valleys of California's coastal mountain ranges some 10,000 to 12,000 years ago; the earliest of these people are known only from archaeological evidence. The cultural impacts resulting from climactic changes and other natural events during this broad expanse of time were negligible; conversely, European contact was a momentous event, which profoundly affected California's native peoples.


A system of aqueducts was built by Chumash Indians 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 . The entire water distribution system was destroyed by floods and abandoned in 1862.

In 1893, Father Cyprian Rubio "modernized" the interior of the church, painting over the original artwork; when he finished, almost nothing remained of the old church. New priests restored the church to its original style in 1957. Today all that remains of the original Mission is the church and its garden. Services are still held in the parish church. A small museum sits at the Mission with displays of Chumash Indian artifacts and mission-era items.

Other historic designations

Mission industries

Some animals at San Buenaventura were cattle, horses, sheep, donkeys, and goats. The cattle were very important because they provided food, oil and hides. In the year of 1818, 35,274 cattle wandered over the mission lands. A little time after January 7th, 1831, the animal population decreased to a low of 4,000 cattle, 3,000 gorrilaheep, 300 horses and 60 mules. In July 1839, Inspector-General E.P. Hartnell found 2,208 cattle, 1,670 sheep, 799 horses, 35 mules and 65 goats. The soil around Mission San Buenaventura was very good so the mission could grow many crops. San Buenaventura grew apples, grapes, bananas, pears, plums, pomegranates, figs, oranges, coconuts, beans, grain, corn and barley. In the year of 1818, 12,483 bushels of grain were harvested. Shortly after January 7, 1831, harvests had been reduced to 1,750 bushels of wheat, 2,000 bushels of barley, 500 bushels of corn, and 400 bushels of beans. In July 1839, Inspector-General William E.P. Hartnell found 322 fanegas of wheat, 182 fanegas of corn and 35 fanegas of peas.

Mission bells

Bells were vitally important to daily life at any mission. The bells were rung at mealtimes, to call the Mission residents to work and to religious services, during births and funerals, to signal the approach of a ship or returning missionary, and at other times; novices were instructed in the intricate rituals associated with the ringing the mission bells. Mission San Buenaventura had five bells. The bells were borrowed from Mission Santa Barbara because there were no bells at the time. The bells were never returned. The bell facing north is labeled S. San Francisco 1781. The bell facing east has the inscription: San Pedro Alcantra 1781. A small swinging bell hangs in the southern arch with the lettering: Ave Maria S. Joseph. The only bell used daily at San Buenaventura is large and crown topped with a Cross on its side. Inscribed on the bell is Ave Maria Pruysyma D Sapoyan Ano D 1825, which means "Hail Mary Most Pure. Mary of Zapopan Year of 1825." This bell was originally cast for the church of Zapopan but was later sent to Mission San Buenaventura. Another bell, which was once the gift of the Spanish Viceroy, is inscribed Marquez de Croix Mexico November 12 1770. It is currently owned by Senora Isabel del Valle Cram. There are also two wooden bells in the museum that measure about two feet. These were the only wooden bells in the California missions.

Interesting Facts



  • Forbes, Alexander (1839). California: A History of Upper and Lower California. Smith, Elder and Co., Cornhill, London.
  • Jones, Terry L. and Kathryn A. Klar (eds.) (2007). California Prehistory: Colonization, Culture, and Complexity. Altimira Press, Landham, MD. ISBN 0-759-10872-2.
  • Krell, Dorothy (ed.) (1979). The California Missions: A Pictorial History. Sunset Publishing Corporation, Menlo Park, CA. ISBN 0-376-05172-8.
  • Leffingwell, Randy (2005). California Missions and Presidios: The History & Beauty of the Spanish Missions. Voyageur Press, Inc., Stillwater, MN. ISBN 0-89658-492-5.
  • Paddison, Joshua (ed.) (1999). A World Transformed: Firsthand Accounts of California Before the Gold Rush. Heyday Books, Berkeley, CA. ISBN 1-890771-13-9.
  • Ruscin, Terry (1999). Mission Memoirs. Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, CA. ISBN 0-932653-30-8.
  • Yenne, Bill (2004). The Missions of California. Thunder Bay Press, San Diego, CA. ISBN 1-59223-319-8.

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