Friday, August 28, 2015


On the second day of our summer vacay/California Mission trip along the Central Coast, we visited Mission La Purisima Concepcion in Lompoc. What's unique about this mission is that it's actually a California State Historic Park encompassing 1,800 acres and 25 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails. Docents and volunteers, sometimes in period dress, are often on hand to portray and describe what life was like back in the day. The expansive grounds, livestock (including horses, steers, sheep, goats, donkeys, pigs, chickens and turkeys), gardens, and the buildings & quarters in seeming (although not actual) arrested decay, make Mission La Purisima a very special place that really transports you back in time. 

NOTE: All the italicized text in the captions are quotes from the brochure for the self-guided mission tour purchased from the visitor center. 

7/28/15 Left to right: the cemetery, bell tower, and main church.

Southbound on Hwy. 1 (from Santa Maria), turning left at one of the gates/entries to Vandenberg AFB towards La Purisima Road. 

Ag fields off of La Purisima Road.

La Purisima Road.

Entrance to the mission.

Visitor center. 

Visitor center.

La Purisima mission bell in the visitor center.

Exhibits in the visitor center.

Shops & quarters and the residence buildings.

El Camino Real, looking towards the shops & quarters and residence buildings.

From the All 21 California Missions booklet: "A section of the original El Camino Real, or Royal Road, runs through the grounds at Mission La Purisima. This was the foot and wagon path that ran between the twenty-one missions from San Diego to Sonoma."

Cemetery and bell tower. 

Bell tower.

"The bells for La Purisima were cast in Lima, Peru, the "city of bells." The bronze bells were skillfully tuned and balanced to create a wide range of tones. Throughout the day the mission bells could be heard calling the inhabitants to mass, to meals or to work."

Bell tower.

Cliff Swallow nesting under the eaves of the main church.

Entrance to the cemetery.

Gil, sauntering into the cemetery.

"Within these walls is the cemetery for La Purisima after 1821. One large cross stands for all graves. Archaeological work indicates that hundreds of people, Chumash and Spanish, are buried here. Many Chumash died from diseases such as smallpox and measles. There are also graves for those who died from the Indian Revolt of 1824."

View of the bell tower from the cemetery. The wooden staircase leads up to a platform from where the bells can be struck.

Sacristy in the main church.

Sacristy chest.

Chandelier in the Sacristy.


Cliff swallow nests under the main church's eaves.

Back of the main church. 
Confessional is on the left and the baptismal font on the right. The choir loft is above the nave. 

"The rear of the main church still has the original floor tiles. This is where the men and boys of the choir stood while musicians played in the loft above. To the left is damage from an underground spring. This reconstructed church is suffering the same fate as the original church. The mission fathers abandoned this church about 1834. Their private chapel was converted for the congregation and can be seen in the residence building."

Main church.

Baptismal font in the main  church.

"Intended as a temporary structure, La Purisima's church could hold a thousand worshippers. The artwork includes the fourteen Stations of the Cross, paintings and statues of the Madonna, Saint Anthony and Saint Joseph."

The rederos in the main church has three niches, with the Immaculate Conception, her hands clasped in prayer, in the central niche. 

The pulpit on the right is painted with the same abstract design as the walls under the choir loft in the rear of the church ("like light passing through lake water," per California's Missions and Presidios, by Tracy Salcedo-Chourre).

"The colors of the tabernacle represent the marble and floral tapestries the padres would have seen in the cathedrals of their native Spain. The red shell frieze is reproduced from the original plaster of this church."

Beneath the altar is the grave of Father Payeras, who served La Purisima from 1804 until his death in 1823. Much loved and highly respected, he became El Presidente of the mission system in 1815. But Father Payeras broke tradition and chose not to relocate to Mission San Carlos Borromeo in Carmel. For eight years La Purisima served as headquarters for the Alta California Mission System."

Bell wheel and other furniture in the sanctuary.

Main church.

Main church

Main church.

Colonnade - shops and quarters building.


Horse and sheep.


"The livestock represent mission era breeds that were brought to the New World from Europe in the 1500s. Spanish settlers brought the ancestors of the Churro sheep to the Southwest. The long-horn cattle closely resemble those brought into California from Mexico. In addition the mission raised horses, burros, goats, chickens, turkeys, and pigs."

A very sweet horse...

Shops & quarters and residence buildings. 

Ginormous Cottonwood tree in front of the main church.

Barracks in the shops & quarters building.

"Inside this building are the apartments, work rooms and barracks of the mission's work force. The soldiers stationed at La Purisima were responsible for enforcing Spanish law and protecting the mission. Their lives became very difficult when Spain refused to pay them during the Mexican Revolution."

Jimson weed (yeehah!) growing outside of the shops and quarters building.

Shops and quarters building.

A room in the shops and quarters building.

Patio behind the shops & quarters building.


"Try to imagine the courtyard filled with the noise, smells and bustle of a busy workday. Bread is baking in the horn; tortillas and posole (stew) are cooking over fires. The burro is pulling the grinding stone so olives can be pressed into oil. The carpenter is shaping new hoe handles and the master weaver is teaching women and children how to card and spin the will. Without this community of workers the mission could not survive."


Mayordomo's quarters. 

"Overseeing these activities would be the mission's majordomo. Here, a retired soldier or respected Chumash could achieve a rank second to the padres. The majordomo was the ranch foreman, responsible for the management of the crops and herds."

Mayordomo's quarters.

Olive mill & press in the courtyard.

Olive mill & press.

Thatched roof over the olive press. 

Weaving room, with a reproduction of the original loom.

Weaving room.

Colonnade of the residence building.

Residence building.

"The trademarks of the residence building are the uniquely designed pillars along the colonnade and the stone buttress at the south end. These structures show the padres' attempts to make this mission earthquake resistant."

Residence building.

Native matilija poppy in the mission gardens.

Matilija poppy.

Mission gardens.

Mission gardens. 

Mission gardens.

Angel's Trumpet (Burgmansia) in the mission gardens. 

Angel's trumpet.

California wild lilac (Ceanothus). Mission gardens. 

La Purisima mission pear.

Mission gardens.

Mission Fig (started as a seedling from the Santa Clara Mission).

Looks like a mullein (Verbascum sp.), growing in front of the fig tree. 

Mission fig. 




"The center fountain held filtered water for drinking and cooking. Excess water flowed into the small lavanderia for washing clothes. The soapy water flowed into the cistern for settling. Afterwards it was used to water the gardens of the mission. The large Indian lavanderia was also used for bathing." 

Mission gardens.

Mission gardens.

"The gardens of La Purisima show typical mission era plants. Mission gardens contained a combination of native and introduced plants that were used for food, fiber, medicine, and perfume for the mission's rooms. Many plants in today's garden grew from cuttings taken from plants at other California missions."


Nevin's Barberry.



Date Palm.



Tule village.

"These homes, built of tule reed, represent the traditional structures used by the Chumash both before and after joining the mission. Despite the size of the mission, there were not enough adobe rooms to house the Chumash population. When the interior temperatures of an adobe and a tule home are compared, perhaps the latter was the better choice for dwellings."

Tule village.

Nevin's Barberry.

Nevin's Barberry.

This wonderful gentleman, a park volunteer dressed as a Spanish soldier, chatted with us for awhile and even let us into one of the more recently constructed tule dwellings for a look-see. 

"Lady Madonna," one of the resident chickens.

More chickens.

A very handsome turkey.

Yikes! This piggy apparently likes to root and wallow in his own pee pee puddle.
Priests' office and library in the residence building.

"The library/mission office does not represent Spanish Colonial furnishings. This room shows the variety of goods the padres could have acquired from black market foreign traders. In exchange for blankets and cowhides, the Fathers could have bartered for English rugs, Chinese china or American mirrors."

Unfinished room.

Leather shop.

Colonnade - residence building.

Private padres' chapel in the residence building.

"Along the corridor are rooms where the padres lived, worshipped, and entertained guests. The church was originally the padres' private chapel. It was remodeled when the main church was destroyed by an underground spring."

Pulpit in the padres' chapel.

Padres' chapel.

From Tracy Salcedo-Chourre's California's Missions and Presidios"The private padres' chapel dominates the residence building, with its great buttress and long portico of both original and reproduced arches. Again, a statue of the Immaculate Conception occupies the middle of the reredos behind the altar. The walls are hung with religious paintings, a small choir loft is suspended over an ornate confessional at the rear of the chapel. Two tiers of windows wash the chapel with sunlight, which reflects off heavy wooden floors and white walls painted with a simple wainscot of orange and blue."

Mission bell in the padres' chapel.

Stone buttress at the south end of the residence building.

This is Mamacita, the resident female donkey at the mission.

Mamacita, showing us her prowess with carrots. Her baby (Babycita, of course), is behind her but not in this shot.

A total sweetheart!

Monjerio or girl's dormitory.

"Girls eleven years old and not married were removed from their families and brought here to live. Their chores included cooking, cleaning, sewing, and weaving. When finished they could visit their families, but had to be back each night before the doors were locked."

A beautiful native Madrone outside of the girl's dormitory.

California Black Walnut.

Leaving the mission and driving back north up Hwy. 1 to Santa Maria.

Hwy. 1 at the junction with CA 135, heading north towards Santa Maria. 

Location:  La Purisima Mission State Historic Park, 2295 Purisima Rd., Lompoc, CA 93436.

Northbound or southbound, take Hwy. 101 to CA 246E towards Solvang/Lompoc. Continue west for about 13.8 miles to Purisima Road and turn right. Continue about 1 mile and the mission is on the right. There is plenty of parking ($6.00 per vehicle payable at the entry kiosk) in a large lot in front of the visitor center. 

From Santa Maria: Take 101S, exit E. Clark Ave. and turn right. Go 2 miles to Orcutt Expressway (CA 135) and turn left. Go 5 miles to Hwy 1. Continue 6 miles to Vandenberg AFB and turn left to continue on Hwy 1. Go another 6 miles and turn left on Purisima Road. The entrance to the mission will be about 1 mile ahead on the left. 

Contact: Tel (805)733-3713 

Hours: The park is open daily 9:00am to 5:00pm for self-guided tours except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day (park map/brochure is available in the visitor center for $1.00). The visitor center closes at 4:00pm. The Gift Shop is located in one of two buildings that served as infirmaries during the mission era (just beyond the parking lot across from the footbridge) - check at the visitor center for the Gift Shop's hours (it didn't open until after noon when we were there).  

Admission Fees: $6.00 for each private vehicle, $5.00 for seniors. 

Most of the following stats are quoted from the California Missions Resource Center:
Mission Santa Ines is the 11th of 21 California Missions, founded on December 8, 1787.

Special Designation: None, although sometimes referred to as the "Linear Mission."

Named For: Mary, Mother of Jesus. The name honors "The Immaculate Conception of Mary the Most Pure." 

Founding Father: Estevan Tapis.

Indians Joining the Mission: Chumash.

Mission Site: 
Originally established at the Indian village of Algsacupi (on the edge of present day Lompoc). An earthquake on December 21, 1812 destroyed the mission, which was then relocated about 4.5 miles to the northeast in the Valley of the Watercress.

Layout: The rebuilt mission (completed between 1813-1818) was laid out in linear fashion, the only California mission not organized as a quadrangle.

Water Source: 
Springs in hills three miles away. The mission had an elaborate system of open aqueducts, pipes, reservoirs, and dams.

The mission population ranged from 900 to 1,100 most years between 1798 -1818, with a peak population of 1,520 in 1804.

The peak number of livestock was 23,746 in 1822 (10,000 cattle, 11,000 sheep, 46 goats, 104 pigs, 1367 horses and 247 mules).

Agricultural Output: 
Between the years 1788 - 1834 La Purisima harvasted 189,276 bushels of wheat, barley, corn, beans, peas, lentils, garbanzos (chickpeas) and habas (broad beans). This was the third largest agricultural output in the mission chain. There were two large vineyards, Jalama 8 miles south of the mission and San Francisoto, 2 miles east.

Mission Church: 
The mission church, which has a simple exterior, has been handsomely restored. Located as it is in an state historic park, it is not an active church.

Mission Bells: 
The companario was copied after the one at Santa Ines, since no records existed that described the original design. The bell tower has two rolling bells and one stationary bell.

Mission Art: 
The mission museum and the new Visitors Center and Exhibit Hall display many period artifacts including an 1818 bell, a complete set of vestments, a handsome confessional, tools and tiles, and two original paintings from the mission.

Special Attraction: 
La Purisima is a "living history" museum. Time your visit on a day when there are sepcial activities or an encampment scheduled. Check the mission website: htpp://

Significant Event: 
In 1824 a revolt of the neophytes that began in Santa Ines spread to La Purisima. The rebels captured the mission and held it for about a month. In the battle sixteen Indians and one soldier died. Seven Indians were condemned to death.

Secularized: 1834

Year Returned to Catholic Church: 
1874, but subsequently much of the land was sold.

Current Status: 
Now a California State Historic Park, surrounded by apprximately 2,000 acres of parkland. The most fully restored mission in California.

Interesting Facts: 
For four years La Purisima was headquarters of mission chain, when Fr. Payéras served as Father President.
La Purisima is the most fully restored mission, with over 20 buildings. Restoration was done between 1934-42 by the National Park Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps.
The mission is a frequent site of reenactments and encampments.

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