The Mission was founded on September 17, 1804 by Father Estevan Tapis, and was named in honor of Saint Agnes, an early Christian martyr of the fourth century. The Spanish for Agnes is Inés, hence the name of the church; the American Yankees anglicized the spelling of the Spanish pronunciation and named the town Santa Ynez.
The Mission, which commands a superb view of the Santa Ynez River Valley and the Santa Ynez and San Rafael mountain ranges, continues its central role in the spiritual and social life of the Santa Ynez Valley as an active parish church of approximately 1,000 families, and is administered by the Capuchin Franciscan order. We hold regular religious services as well as special services for baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and funerals. The Mission staff conducts religious education classes, youth groups, and various programs for adults.
Community groups are allowed to use Mission facilities for public functions such as the annual Story Telling Festival and the yearly Rancheros Visitadores horse-riding event, and the Mission grounds are used as the staging area for parades and cycling events. The popular annual Fiesta benefits restoration work at the historic Mission.
Today the process continues to restore, preserve, and return the "Mission of the Passes" to its former grandeur of the early Mission era. Mission Santa Inés is the proud and fortunate possessor of a rich collection of paintings, statuary, vestments, manuscripts, and artifacts.
Visitors are always welcome. A taped audio tour is available in our gift shop to guide visitors through the Museum rooms, church, and garden. As you tour this picturesque Mission, may you be enriched spiritually by the drama, history, and tradition contained within the walls and grounds of Mission Santa Inés, called "The Hidden Gem" of the Missions.
This statue of St. Agnes, dating from the 18th Century, is located in a niche above the main altar at Old Mission Santa Inés.
Furious at discovering her Christian faith, the Roman official commanded that she be forced to become a temple prostitute for the Roman pagan religion, and had her taken to a brothel where she was stripped. According to legend, her hair grew long enough overnight to cover her nakedness and protect her purity. The young man attempted to see her but was blinded; Agnes then prayed for him and his sight was miraculously restored. Because of these events, the people of the time viewed her as a sorceress, and she was brought out to be burned at the stake, but again the Lord protected her and the fire was miraculously extinguished.
In 304 AD she was beheaded, and became one of the best known and most widely honored of the early Roman martyrs. Saint Agnes is the special patroness of bodily purity and chastity.