The mission sits high on a hill overlooking both the city of Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean. During the first few years, there were three churches built, each larger than the previous one. The final and remaining church is has two matching bell towers that stand 87 feet tall. The towers sustained considerable damage in a 1925 earthquake, but were subsequently rebuilt. The appearance of the inside of the church has not changed since 1820. Mission Santa Bárbara is the only mission to remain under the leadership of the Franciscan Friars since the day of its founding until today.
The Mission also has the oldest unbroken tradition of choral singing among the California Missions and, indeed, of any California institution. The weekly Catholic liturgy is serviced by two choirs, the California Mission Schola and the Cappella Barbara, both under the direction of composer Keith Paulson-Thorp. The Mission archives contain one of the richest collections of colonial Franciscan music manuscripts known today. These manuscripts remain closely guarded and most have not yet been subjected to scholarly analysis.
The city of Santa Barbara built up near the mission. The Mission Santa Bárbara today continues to serve the city as a parish church.
See also: California mission