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Mission San Luis Rey

Front of the church building at Mission San Luis Rey

History of the Mission
(from brochure available at the Mission museum)

Welcome to Old Mission San Luis Rey de Francia! The King of the Missions. Founded in 1798 by Fr. Fermin Lasuen, successor to Fr. Junipero Serra, Mission San Luis Rey became the largest of the 21 Spanish missions established in Alta California. This Mission, 18th in the chain, was named after King Luis IX of France, a 13th century saint and patron of the Franciscans.
Prior to Spanish occupation, the Luiseno people inhabited this area for hundreds of years. Their villages were located in valleys, along streams, by the coast and near the mountains. Luiseno homes were dome shaped and constructed of tules over a branch frame. It was the chief and shaman who saw to it that laws were obeyed in the village. The women gathered most of the plant foods, while the men usually hunted for animals and fish. The Luisenos made tools out of stone, such as pestles for grinding and pounding. They created baskets from grasses and natural fibers and used them for gathering and preparing food.
The establishment of the missions in Alta California was not authorized until the threat of Russian encroachment into the area. In its long history of colonization, Spain had learned that land could be claimed inexpensively by establishing a mission - sending dedicated padres, a handful of soldiers and a few supplies. With a shortage of Spaniards in the New World, Spain decided to colonize with the indigenous people. The Franciscans were chosen, not only to preach to the Indians, but to teach them new skills so they could become productive citizens for Spain. Father Antonio Peyri was put in charge of Mission San Luis Rey, from the day of its founding on June 13th, 1798 until his departure in January 1832. Between these years the Mission became home to approximately 3,000 Indians. With their labor,the Mission cared for more than 50,000 head of livestock, and large sections of Mission lands were brought under cultivation. Grapes, oranges, olives, wheat and corn were some of the crops produced. Fields were irrigated by water channeled from the San Luis Rey river just north of the Mission. The Mission soon became self-sustaining. Its buildings were constructed of adobe, fired clay bricks and wooden timbers, and by 1830, the Mission was the largest building in California.
After Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, the law of secularization was passed, giving each mission a 10-year period to fulfill their function of instructing the Indians. The land was then to be handed over to the Indians. After this time, the missions would be rplaced by another colonial institition, the pueblo. This last step was long overdue in Alta California. The last step was long overdue in Alta California. The law was enacted at the Mission in 1833. However, the Mission came under the control of various secular administrators who managed to gain title to large portions of former mission land and thousands of livestock, leaving nothing to the Luisenos.
From 1847-1857 the Mission was used as an operational base by US soldiers. Notable figures that served at the mission include General Stephen W. Kearny, Kit Carson and the Mormon Battalion. Some troops stationed at the Mission were ordered to take charge and prevent any vandalism. Others assisted ranchers in dismantling rooms and provided building materials for their own homes. In 1850 California became part of the United States, and the Catholic Bishop of California petitioned the U.S. government for the return of the missions. In 1865 the Mission was returned to the Catholic Church by Abraham Lincoln. It continued to lay abandoned until 1892.
In 1892 a group of Franciscans from Zacatecas, Mexico sought refuge at the Mission, looking for a novitiate site. They were assigned to San Luis Rey under the guidance of Fr. Joseph Jeremias OíKeefe who is referred to as the "Rebuilder of the Mission." From 1892 to 1912, Fr. OíKeefe repaired the church and rebuilt the living quarters on the foundations of the old Mission (where the museum sits today). The quadrangle was rebuilt in 1949 as part of a Franciscan college which is the Retreat Center. During the 1950ís and 60ís the Friars uncovered ruins of the soldier barracks and lavanderia from layers of dirt accumulated over the years. In 1984 a restoration effort to stabilize and preserve the exterior of the church building was completed. Mission restoration and preservation is an ongoing process, and archaeological investigations continue to unearth the past.

State Historical Landmark plaque

Views of the front of the mission

The front of the mission Front of the mission viewed from fountain View of the mission

Outside views of the church Outside views of the church Outside views of the church

Displays in the mission museum

Padres outfit Historic pictures Religious items

Indian baskets and items Indian baskets and items Indian baskets and items

Interior views of the church

Statues on the left side of the alter Alter Statues on the right side of the alter

Alter from distance Skylight View facing entrance of church

Baptistry Ambon (in common parlance, a pulpit) Side door of church

Chapel Chapel Chapel

Painting Painting Painting

Views of the interior courtyard

Interior Courtyard Interior Courtyard Interior Courtyard

Corridor with archway Archways

Remains of the original quadrangle

First Pepper Tree in California seen through ruins of arch

The size of this original quadrangle is 140 x 150 ft.   Modified bullfighting was a popular Indian sport.   In this quadrangle, beyond the old archway, you can see the first pepper tree in California - brought here from Peru in 1830.

The oldest pepper tree in California was planted by Fr. Antonio Peyri in the middle of the Mission garden. The seeds were brought to San Luis Rey in 1830 by a sailor from Peru and the tree still stands today.

The California Pepper Tree (Schinus molle), native to the arid zone of northern South America, is a drought-tolerant evergreen that grows to 50 feet. It blooms profusely in panicles at the ends of drooping branches and produces small yellow-white summer flowers which give way to clusters of rose-colored berries in the fall and winter. These berries do not produce commercial "pepper." Medicinally, S molle was used in treating a variety of wounds and infections due to its antibacterial and antiseptic properties.

Ruins of the quadrangle Sign at the quadrangle Statue in the quadrangle

Ruins of the Indian Laundries

Lavanderia -- Indian Laundries -- where Indians washed clothes every week. Water spouted forth from gargoyles and passed out from the tile pools into orchards of fruit trees (pears, peaches, figs, etc.), and gardens of vegetables, watermellons. Sunken gardens were surrounded by adobe walls. Cactus planted along walls.

Entry and stairs of the Lavanderia Entry and stairs of the Lavanderia Entry and stairs of the Lavanderia

View of the Lavanderia View of the Lavanderia View of the Lavanderia

Mission San Luis Rey is located in the city of Oceanside at 4050 Mission Ave. See map.

Items of Interest...

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