La Purísima Mission SHP
Narrated by Russ Christoff


Seventeen miles west of Highway 101 on Route 246, I found La Purisima Mission.

The eleventh mission in the chain of California missions, Mision La Purisima Concepcion de Maria Santesema, was constructed in 1787, and housed members of the coastal Shumash Indians and Franciscan Padres.

Today, the mission is known as La Purisima Mission State Historic Park, and is celebrated as the largest most complete, and the most authentic mission restoration project in the American west.

Visitors will enjoy wandering through the gardens and buildings on the property.

Many shrubs and trees in the La Purisima gardens were started from grafts and cuttings taken from plants at other California missions.

Varieties found here reflect those used by the Shumash and Padres for food, fiber and medicine.

In early days, an irrigation system brought water to the mission.

Two lavanderias where the mission washing was done are worth a look a long the way.

The visitor’s center, next the parking area is excellent place to learn about La Purisima before going on a self-guided tour.

It contains some displays including the history of La Purisima and its restoration by the Civilian Conservation Corp.

There is also bookstore with a good collection of reading material on the history of the California missions.

From the visitor’s center, I walked with a ranger, Steve, along a path which crosses El Camino Real. The early historic roadway that connected the missions.

The impressive main chapel contains a colorful alter, and artwork depicting the Stations of the Cross.

Under the alter lies the grave of Father Mariano Puyeras, one of the most respected missionaries to reside here.

Other buildings contain soldier’s quarters and workshops.

An impressive residence building for padres and dignitaries, complete with a private chapel and reproduced furnishings from the period, are just a sample of the restoration work done here.

Like many California missions, the buildings at La Purisima have seen many changes, including severe earthquake damage in 1812.

Steve gave me some facts on its history.

The mission buildings are in amazing condition. How much of that is original?

RANGER STEVE: Well, the mission was actually abandoned in 1845 in favor of Santa Inez, which was a little bit younger mission.

It was abandoned from 1845 until about the 1930’s, where it was used in a variety of situations.

It was a place for animals to live, it was a place for bandits to hang out, and it was kind of a fun place to go picnicking during the day and tell ghost stories at night.

Then in the 1930’s it was acquired by the National Parks Service and the Civilian Conservation Corp and the Army Corp of Engineers, and they all got together and decided to restore this and make this the Williamsburg of the west, if you will, that was the idea.

They did archeological excavations here and did research to determine exactly what these buildings looked like. They found the original foundations used as many of the walls and pillars and roofs and roofing material, and reconstructed this from the bottom up using 1926 earthquake standards that they had to adhere to as well.

So they built this as it was originally in about 1822.

RUSS CHRISTOFF: What is the miracle of La Purisima Concepcion? Why are we going to such great lengths to preserve it?

RANGER STEVE: The Spanish Colonial history period, from about 1769 until about 1845-1847, was an integral part of the history of California and the California culture.

By preserving this place, it is the eleventh of the 21 California missions originally founded by Junipero Serra, we can examine the cultural, the economic, the political, the religious conflicts and circumstances that all came together here in the growth of this culture.

Out of what happened here, came the California culture.