About Our Lady of Sorrows Church
Serving Santa Barbara's Catholic community since 1782.
Our Lady of Sorrows Church is rooted in the founding of Santa Barbara. In 1782, a presidio, or fortress, was established to protect interests of the Spanish Empire in the California frontier, as well as safeguard the Spanish citizens.
While the Franciscan priests established a "mission church" to serve the native Chumash population, a separate Presidio Church was constructed to serve as the parish of the Spanish army. This Presidio Chapel grew into Our Lady of Sorrows Church.
The Meaning Behind the Name
Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is known by many names, generally associated with places she appeared.
In the case of Our Lady of Sorrows, the imagery is not about where she appeared, but rather the seven sorrows Our Lady experienced during her life. For this reason, we see the Blessed Mother with her heart exposed and pierced by seven swords.
Our Lady of Sorrows' Feast Day is September 15.
Father Junipero Serra, O.F.M., celebrated Santa Barbara's first Mass on the very site of the Presidio Chapel and provided all books of record, furnishings and altar pieces.
The tall gold chalice said to have been used by Father Serra in that very first Mass is a treasure of Our Lady of Sorrows Church today. It is used occasionally for special services held at the Presidio Chapel, the last religious institution founded by Father Serra.
The First Modern Church
On July 29, 1855, the first church to bear the name of Our Lady of Sorrows was consecrated.
The primary builders of the church were students of the nearby seminary college, the Apostolic College of Our Lady of Sorrows.
The college was located near Figueroa and State, with a chapel inside. At this point, since the Presidio Chapel was in decay, the parishioners used the chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows College until a new church was built. Unfortunately, this church was destroyed by fire in August 1865.
After years of fundraising, a new church was built and completed in May 1867. The church was again located at Figueroa and State, facing sourth toward the ocean. In 1904, the church undertook a major modification to add two bell towers to house three bells, weighing 2,200; 1,250 and 650 pounds each. The bells were blessed on July 17, 1904.
On the morning of June 29, 1925, a 6.2 earthquake shook Santa Barbara, destroying the church.
In 1908, leadership of the church was turned over to the California Province of the Society of Jesus. The Jesuit Fathers served the parish for 108 years. On June 30, 2014, a Mass of Thanksgiving was held to thank the Jesuit Fathers for their dedicated service to Our Lady of Sorrows and leadership of the church was turned over to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
The Present Church
A new site was selected for a new church and school, The Dolores School (now Notre Dame School) at the East Sola Street location.
Today, Our Lady of Sorrows is as strong as ever, full of people who make the parish part of their daily lives in Santa Barbara.
To purchase a copy of Our Lady of Sorrows 1782–2004 through a donation, contact
The Rectory at 805-963-1734