Monday, January 17, 2011

The Ventura Mission: Main Street's History Lesson

The Ventura Mission on Main Street
Mission San Buenaventura (211 E. Main St., 805/643-4318, self guided tour is $2 for adults, and a mere 50 cents for kids children) was established on Easter Sunday, March 31, 1782, and it became the ninth mission founded in the total chain of 21 mission in the state. Like most missions, the first structure which lasted for 10 years, burned to the ground. There is no direct public access except through the gift shop. The interior courtyard is beautifully landscaped, with interlocking brick walkways and a very popular shrine to Mary to one side. There is a fountain in the center, surrounded by a few benches for refection. The church itself is long and narrow, a neo classical looking arch over the alter giving it a more modern feel to the interior. Carpet covers much of the original tile floors unfortunately and there’s a rather off putting sign dead center in the alter warning you that you are being videotaped. Behind the church is part of the original brick reservoir. In part, the mission prospered due to a seven mile aqueduct that was constructed from the Ventura River to the mission grounds. This allowed a wide variety of crops to grow, including orchards, gardens, fruits, vegetables, grains, and even exotic fruits such as bananas, coconuts, and figs. These helped greatly with the needed funds to support mission life.

The interior courtyard
The mission, like most of them, was built as a complete quadrangle. The church was on the southwest corner and a cemetery was on the west side on the church. A grade school now stands where the old cemetery was. In 1818, the pirate known as Bouchard, was seen off the coast of California and began terrorizing Ventura. The padres and Indians buried some of their valuables and sacred objects and literally took the rest to the mountains for about a month until the pirate and his band had gone. The church walls of tile, stone and adobe are just over six feet thick, built by Chumash Indian labor. It’s still an active church and one of the most visited sights in Ventura. To visit today you enter the gift shop first, with its miniature mission collection, spiritually oriented cards and gifts, then it’s up a few steps to their very small museum, which only holds a few items such as vestments and everyday utensils used during the mission period. The Mission is open to the public Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. but know that Sunday church services means that, while you can go inside, you can't wander around. The Mission is closed on major holidays.

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