One of the many tourist attractions in Ventura County is the Mission of San Buenaventura. The Basilica is located at 211 E. Main Street, Ventura, California 93001. The Mission Basilica is alive and well and still serving nearly 1,200 local families. with daily Mass as well as both Saturday and Sunday Masses. It is also a very popular wedding venue.
The San Buenaventura Mission was established on March 31, 1782, (Easter Sunday), by Father Junipero Serra when he raised a cross on the beach at the Santa Barbara Channel. Assisted by Padre Pedro Benito Cambon he celebrated a High Mass and dedicated the Mission in honor of Saint Bonaventure.
The San Buenaventura Mission was said to be the 3rd of California's Missions but ended up being the ninth. It is one of the six Missions that Father Serra personally dedicated.
Once the Mission was established, Father Serra left the very capable Father Cambon in control. Under Father Cambon's leadership, the San Buenaventura Mission started out to grow and thrive. By using the Chumash Indians, referred to as the "Channel Indians" by the Spanish, the initial structures at San Buenaventura Mission proceeded to go up swiftly.
The initial church was destroyed by fire in 1792. In 1795 they started construction on a new church to replace the destroyed one. It was completed in 1809.
With the help of the Chumash, the Fathers constructed a seven-mile-long waterway that brought fresh water from the Ventura River and supplied water farms and gardens that were described by famous Navigator George Vancouver as the finest he'd ever seen. Sadly, the entire system was destroyed in 1862 by floods and was never rebuilt.
The missionaries had to abandon the church twice during the 1800s. The first time was in 1812, when an earthquake and subsequent tidal wave drove everyone inland for many months. A few years later in 1818, to protect the sacred relics from the hands of a pirate who was raiding the missions up and down the coast, the Fathers, Indians and Parishioners took the relics up into the local hills and hid out for a month.
In 1819, tragedy struck when the Mission's defense forces tried to keep a traveling group of rival Mojave Indians from hanging out with the local Chumash Indians. This cause a violent battle, where in fact the Mojave Indians and two of the soldiers were been killed.
In 1833 a government decree was issued removing administrative control of the missions from the clergy.
In 1845, the Mission San Buenaventura Mission structures were rented to Don Jose Arnaz and to Narciso Botello. Soon thereafter they were illegally sold by the Governor of the state to Arnaz. After California left Mexico and was granted statehood within the United States, Bishop Joseph Alemany emplored the American government to return the buildings of the San Buenaventura Mission, including the residences, vineyard, orchard, church, and cemetery to the Catholic Church. Abraham Lincoln obliged and returned these to the church in 1862.
Thankfully for us, the Mission was well taken care of and still has its original walls and floors.
In 1857 another earthquake damaged the Mission, and its tile roof had to be replaced with a lighter weight wood shingle roof. A few years afterward, Father Cyprian Rubio decided to modernize the building. He covered up the original floor as well as the ceiling. He also removed the hand-sculpted podium and replaced the small windows with stained glass.
In 1956, Father O'Brien took the mission through a restoration which brought the church back to its original splendor and glory. Twenty years later in 1976, the shingle roofing was taken out and changed with tile.
In 1994 a local architecture firm was hired to update the master plan for the church and its needs for expansion. This required the demolition of some of the original buildings. Today, only the church and its gardens are all the remains of the original Mission.
In 2006 the church celebrated its 225th anniversary, with a year-long celebration that included several events and activities. In June of 2020, Pope Francis made the Mission a "minor basilica" and the first basilica of the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
For $5 you can take a self-guided tour of the Museum, the Garden and Grotto, the Church as well as several other locations of interest. There is also a 30 minute video on the history of the Mission.
Guided tours do exist, however they are not running as of the writing of 12/28/21.
Like all tours, they begin and end at the gift shop. 🙂