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Footsteps of History

The California Missions

Oceanside

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia
"The King of the Missions"
Eighteenth Mission, 13 June 1798
A National Historic Landmark

San Luis Rey in 1894

Present-day View of the mission

Naming of Mission:
The mission was named for Louis IX, King of France and is known as the "King of the Missions" because it is the largest of all the missions. Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, the mission's founder, chose the name for the King because he left his native France to fight for the Holy Land during the Crusades.
Location:
The mission is forty miles north of San Diego and just a few miles east of Oceanside in San Diego County. The mission is between Interstate 5 and Interstate 15 on Highway 76 in North San Diego County
History:
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia was founded on the Feast of St. Anthony, June 13th, 1798 by Father Lasuen, a friend and co-worker with Father Junipero Serra. Fifty-four Indians were baptized the same day as the founding. Father Lasuen chose the site for the mission, but it was built under the direction of Father Antonio Peyri, who served here for 34 years. The mission thrived under his leadership with as many as 3,000 Indians in and around the mission at one time. Early on, there were a number of primitive buildings for various uses until more permanent housing could be erected. The existing mission building was begun in 1811. This building was completed four years later. The mission grew and prospered with lands extending out up to 15 miles from the mission. The mission also had more ordinances performed during its tenure than any other mission in the chain. By 1818, San Luis Rey had six mission ranches, Pala, Santa Margarita, San Jacinto, Santa Ysabel, Temecula and San Pedro.
Since Father Peyri remained here at San Luis Rey for thirty-four years, the Indians greatly loved him. Father Peyri left the mission in 1829 after the Mexican expulsion order was signed. They say he left in the middle of the night because he didn't want the his dear Indian friends to try to persuade him to stay.
The law of secularization was passed in 1821 when Mexico became independent from Spain. Mexico gave the missions ten years to teach the Indians what they needed to know the run the missions and then the missions would be turned into a pueblo. Many local Indians left the mission and the lands were sold. The local Luiseno Indians received the San Luis Rey missions lands, but advantage was taken of them by colonialists who were able to buy it for a pittance from the Indians. Eventually, the tribe was left with nothing.
Once California became a state, soldiers used the mission as a base. General Kearny, led here by Kit Carson, camped here with his troops from 1849 to 1857. They were to protect the lands and properties and protect the residents.

President Lincoln signed papers returning the lands and missions to the Catholic Church in 1865. It wasn't until much later in 1892, that a group of Franciscan Priests from Zacatecas, Mexico came. Soon after, Father Joseph Jeremiah O'Keefe arrived to lead the group and begin the huge task of restoration. A year later the building and restoration began. The church was finally re-dedicated on 12 May 1893 by Bishop Mora. Then, the living quarters were re-built in 1903. Father O'Keefe stayed until 1912 when the major restoration work was completed. A Franciscan college was built in 1949 and other restoration was done in 1984 to help preserve the exteriors of the existing buildings.
The largest mission in the chain, San Luis Rey's buildings cover almost six acres. They are placed around a quadrangle as was often the case with the missions. The quadrangle at this mission covers 500 square feet. A large lavanderia (laundry area) was in front of the mission, along iwth a beautiful sunken garden. The water was purified by a charcoal filter system. There was also a lim kiln in this area for tiles and materials and for tanning hides. Today, the mission is used as a parish church. It is also used extensively as a place for retreats and conferences. Mission San Luis Rey was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970.
The San Antonio de Pala Mission was founded in 1810 by Father Peyre to assist the larger Mission San Luis Rey. It was initially used as a granary. A chapel and houses were added later. There were four Asistencia missions in San Diego County. Today the Pala Mission remains in use as a parish church for the Pauma Indians. The site looks much the same as it did many years ago.
Contact the Mission:
Mission San Luis Rey
4050 Mission Avenue
Oceanside, CA 92057-6402
Phone: 760-757-3651 Ext. 148
Gift Shop Phone: 760-757-3651, extension 112
Mission Trivia:
Father Peyri is remembered for the first pepper tree brought to California although it was planted a year after his departure.
Mission Links:
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia home page
A good timeline page for Mission San Luis Rey
Mission San Luis Rey Parish Website
More information about the Mission
A history page for the Mission

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This page was last updated on 28 June 2012 at 6:12 pm
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