At one time, all of the old Spanish Missions were staffed by missionaries from the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor (OFM). Between 1769 and 1848, one hundred and forty-two Franciscans served Alta California for an average of 16 years. Fifty-eight died at their missions. Today, four missions still have Franciscan friars resident: Santa Barbara (which was never totally abandoned), San Antonio de Padua, San Miguel and San Luis Rey. The Irish Province of the Capuchin order of Franciscans has been responsible for Santa Ines since 1924.
Visitors to the missions eagerly look for Franciscans strolling the grounds, framed against a splendid view of the church. Of course, such encounters are rare today. The Franciscan priests you do see are likely to be performing mass, baptizing infants or officiating a wedding. Portions of the quadrangle where friars reside are off limits to visitors. There was a time. However, when there were friars strolling the grounds and brothers working the fields.
This vintage collection of vintage images –in most cases photographs taken between 1890 and 1905 –provides some glimpse of a time long past.