Faith

Statue of Beloved Saint Beheaded in Santa Barbara

First they came for Robert E. Lee. Then they came for Christopher Columbus. Then they came for Thomas Jefferson. And then they came for … Saint Junipero Serra?

Say it isn’t so.

It’s so.

A bronze statue of Catholic saint Father Junípero Serra at the Old Santa Barbara Mission was decapitated and splattered with red paint, Santa Barbara police said on Monday.

Saint Junipero Serra was a Spanish priest and friar of the Franciscan Order. He is credited with the foundation and spread of the Catholic Church on the West Coast of the United States from 1768 to 1784, when it was still mission territory.

Via SF Gate:

The statue, on the western side of the Central Coast property near the mission’s office, has since been covered with a tarp. The Santa Barbara mission has been called the “Queen of the Missions.”

The statue was vandalized in a similar fashion as another Father Serra statue in Monterey last year. That figure, which was beheaded but not painted, has since been repaired. Another, in Santa Cruz, was vandalized with the word “genocide” in late 2015.

Monica Orozco, executive director of the Santa Barbara Mission, told The Tribune they have not yet decided if the statue will be replaced.

“We will let people know once we know more information,” Orozco said. “We reported it to SBPD this morning. It likely happened during the night or early in the morning.”

Orozco said the William H. Hannon Foundation made the bronze statue of Serra, a Spanish Franciscan friar who founded nine California missions.

Serra, who died in 1784 at the age of 71, was canonized by Pope Francis in 2015.

The decision to name Serra a saint was controversial, since his critics point to a history of driving out thousands of Native Americans in his quest to spread Christianity.

The Los Angeles Times reported in August that a Serra statue in Mission Hills, across the street from the San Fernando Mission, had the word “murderer” painted on its base and its hands were painted red.

Officers from the Santa Barbara Police Department took pictures at the crime scene as they investigated the case.

The Santa Barbara mission is notifying other missions in the state of California to warn them about the heightened risk of vandalism.

“I think most missions are on alert for different levels of vandalism that can occur,” Orozco said. “But certainly we will let everyone know.”

The mission plans to remove what’s left of the statue in order to clean it, repair it and replace the missing head.