Santa Barbara Mission : Michelin's recommendations
Its twin pink-domed towers rising majestically against the foothills surrounding Mission Canyon, the church of California's 10th mission dominates the city both physically and spiritually. Santa Bárbara has never ceased to serve as a parish church throughout its 200-year history. The regal façade inspired the site's sobriquet, Queen of the Missions.The mission was dedicated by Padre Fermín Lasuén in 1786 (two years after Padre Junipero Serra's death), though the entire complex had to be rebuilt after an earthquake in 1812. Completion of the present church in 1820 signaled the heyday of Santa Bárbara Mission. Today the mission serves not only as a parish church, but also as a research library and archive for the entire chain. Thick-walled, heavily beamed rooms of the padres' quarters contain a collection of mission artifacts from the late 18C to early 19C, including crafts, vestments and musical instruments. Behind the quarters is a lovely sacred garden that once contained numerous neophyte workshops. Little changed from its original appearance, the interior of the long, narrow church is adorned with bright motifs; the painted canvas reredos (1806), of which only fragments remain, formed the basis for the detailed design scheme. Imported from Peru in 1789, two large oil paintings, The Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin and The Crucifixion, hang on either side of the altar. A skull and crossbones over the side door of the church mark the shady cemetery, where some 4,000 neophytes lie buried.