San Buenaventura Mission was founded on Easter Sunday, 1782. It was the last mission that the Spanish missionary, Saint Junipero Serra, founded himself as he worked his way north, converting indigenous people to Catholicism. The mission has a tiny museum with some pretty interesting relics, the most noteworthy being two large, hand carved mahogany bells wrapped with rawhide straps. Although their purpose remains a mystery, it is the only mission that had wooden bells hanging in the belfry. This was intriguing enough to President Roosevelt, who visited the mission in 1903, climbing to the top of the belfry to sound the wooden bells.
The garden is original but the rest of the mission has been destroyed over the course of its history by fires and earthquakes. The second and current church was completed in 1809. It is made of adobe with six foot thick walls so it is nice and cool inside. What is striking upon entry to the church is the grey marbleized wood beams. This the the first of four missions we will visit as we follow the path of Catholicism northward.