Rural retreatLompoc, CA

Mission La Purisima sketch by Chandler O'Leary

This is the ninth installment of my Mission Mondays series, exploring all 21 Spanish Missions along the California coast. You can read more about this series, and see a sketch map of all the missions, at this post.

Mission La Purisima Concepción was probably the one for which I did the least amount of research—the mission I knew the least about. I’m so glad I showed up there without doing my homework first, because it ended up being both a complete surprise and my very favorite mission.

Detail of California Missions map sketch by Chandler O'Leary

La Purisima is unique in a couple of ways: in the first place, it’s one of only two in the chain that have been deconsecrated. Now that it’s no longer an active church, it’s now operated as a California state park.

Mission La Purisima sketch by Chandler O'Leary

The other unique thing is that La Purisima is the only mission in the chain to still include the entire mission complex. Most of the missions are down to just the church and gardens, but this one still encompasses the adjacent monastery, workshops, cemetery, and remnants of the mission village.

Mission La Purisima sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Much of what’s there today was reconstructed by the CCC in the 1930s (like most of the missions, it was badly damaged in a long-ago earthquake), and currently maintained by the state park system.

Mission La Purisima sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I think I arrived not long after a recent restoration, because the place was in fine fettle.

Mission La Purisima sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Best of all, I had almost the whole place to myself—which, combined with its remote location, made it feel like I’d stumbled upon a bit of hidden treasure.

Mission La Purisima sketch by Chandler O'Leary

I could have stayed there all day, basking in sunshine, birdsong and the sweet spring breeze.

Mission La Purisima sketch by Chandler O'Leary

But what really bowled me over was that gorgeous pink stucco.

Mission La Purisima sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Instead of a historic shell, inhabited only by ghosts, that pink made the place feel very much alive.

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Comments (2)

  1. Sally Vedder

    Maybe all the workshop rooms weren’t open for view? There are rooms along the arcade with workrooms for leatherworking, weaving and spinning, kitchens with domed adobe ovens, tilemaking, and more—all full of period tools & materials just lying about. Also there are gardens, pens with the kinds of animals that the missions had (donkeys, oxen, goats, sheep, pigs!). And monthly, they have renactments with costumed docents, where demonstrations of all these crafts going on. Yes, it’s a little “touristy” but I think it’s wonderful to show the actual crafting being done in the old-time way. I think this mission really gives the visitor a taste of Actual Daily Life at the Mission. It’s my favorite mission because of this.

    1. Chandler O'Leary Post author

      Yes, that’s what I love about La Purisima, too—it’s my favorite, as well. A few of the workshop rooms were open when I was there, and plenty of animals were in the pens, but it wasn’t a docent day, and hardly any other visitors were around. I was there in the off-season, though, so it was a pretty quiet day. You still very much get a sense of everyday life there, and I loved that about it.

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