Man on a Mission: Mission Santa Inés Virgen y Martír


Man on a Mission

Editor’s note: Today, we continue our special series with Kirk Whitney – “Man on a Mission” will take all of us along on Kirk and Debbie Whitney’s pilgrimages to view and pray at the California Missions. I thank Kirk personally for this amazing opportunity to share these treasures with our readers! LMH

Mission Santa Inés is called the hidden gem of the missions for good reason. Located in the heart of Solvang California, you could easily spend the entire day in town without noticing it’s there.

If you drive into Solvang from Highway 101 on route 246, the Mission remains hidden behind an adobe wall and mature trees. You won’t see the mission itself unless you pass all the way through town, then you can see it in your rear view mirror.

Santa Inés Mission Entrance

Santa Inés Mission Entrance

In the early 20th century, the area attracted a number of Danish immigrants and in 1911, the town of Solvang was established just outside the mission walls. A century later, you have a beautiful Spanish mission set in a quaint Danish village.  It’s a study in contrasts.

Approaching the mission from the town side, you see only the mission wall at the rear of the municipal parking lot. As you go through the gate, a pathway takes you around the back of the courtyard and around the side of the church. It’s only then that you get a full view of the mission itself, which faces away from the town overlooking a beautiful portion of the Santa Ynez Valley.

Santa Ines Mission Wall

Santa Inés Mission Wall

Since our visit was on a Sunday, we had to work around their busy Mass schedule. Early afternoon ended up being ideal. Their self-guided tour begins with a small but excellent museum. I liked the fact that each room had an audio station providing interesting information about many of the artifacts on display.

The church itself is in the classic mission style. It’s a long narrow structure with a white washed wooden beam ceiling. Its walls are recently plastered and painted with ornate floral borders and extensive use of Trompe-l’oeil to provide the illusion of carved panel work.

The mission courtyard is also a hidden gem. As you exit the church’s side door you come into the courtyard’s fountain area. The yard is beautifully landscaped and makes a number of transitions as you make your way past the small shrines placed throughout. The courtyard path brings you around the back of the church to the cemetery on the other side.

As you leave the church, a final exhibit depicts the modern day work of the Capuchin Franciscans. It reminds you that Santa Inés is still a center for missionary work. The Capuchins, in addition to running the parish, have a vocations center for their order at the Mission.

Santa Inés El Calvario Entrance

Santa Inés El Calvario Entrance

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the mission lies at the end of the church parking lot. El Calvario is an outdoor stations of the cross. The stations are arranged along a decomposed granite pathway that follows a ledge overlooking the Santa Ynez River Valley. The pathway is lined with California pepper trees and has a number of wooden benches that encourage visitors to stay and pray or meditate.  The El Calvario experience alone makes the trip to Mission Santa Inés worthwhile.

Santa Inés El Calvario

Santa Inés El Calvario

Combined with a visit to Mission La Purisima, less than 20 miles away, the Danish village of Solvang and the wineries of the Santa Ynez Valley, Mission Santa Inés is a great destination for a weekend getaway.

View additional information on this and other California Missions at

Copyright 2013 Kirk Whitney


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1 Comment

  1. This lovely mission in Solvang area is truly a treasure! Your article covers all the wonderful features to see. The bookstore is also exceptional with many choices for gifts and religious articles. I was once able to attend Mass there celebrated by our priest host for a wine tour. Attending Mass, you feel like you are going back to other time. The gardens are peaceful and serene. A major hotel is within a small walking distance, along with the shops and wine tasting venues along the main streets. Thank you for your exceptional article with photos. – L. Lenko

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