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Mission San Luis Rey de Francia (Spanish: Misión San Luis Rey de Francia) is a former Spanish mission in San Luis Rey, a neighborhood of Oceanside, California. This Mission lent its name to the Luiseño tribe of Mission Indians.

The full name of the mission is La Misión de San Luis, Rey de Francia (The Mission of Saint Louis, King of France). It was named for King Louis IX of France.[1][2] Its nickname is "King of the Missions"[3] It was founded by padre Fermín Lasuén on June 12, 1798, the eighteenth of the twenty-one Spanish missions built in the Alta California Province of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.[2][4][5]

At its prime, Mission San Luis Rey's structures and services compound covered almost 950,400 acres (384,600 ha), making it the largest of the missions, along with its surrounding agricultural land.[6] Multiple outposts were built in support of Mission San Luis Rey and placed under its supervision, including San Antonio de Pala Asistencia in 1816 and Las Flores Estancia in 1823.

The current church, built in 1815, is the third church on this location.[7] It is a National Historic Landmark, for its pristine example of a Spanish mission church complex.[8][9][10] Today the mission complex functions as a parish church of the Diocese of San Diego as well as a museum and retreat center. Mission San Luis Rey De Francia raised about 26,000 cattle as well as goats, geese, and pigs.

An early account of life at the Mission was written by one of its Native American converts, Luiseño Pablo Tac, in his work Indian Life and Customs at Mission San Luis Rey: A Record of California Mission Life by Pablo Tac, An Indian Neophyte (written c.1835 in Rome, later edited and translated in 1958 by Minna Hewes and Gordon Hewes). In his book, Tac lamented the rapid population decline of his Luiseño people after the founding of the mission:

In Quechla not long ago there were 5,000 souls, with all their neighboring lands. Through a sickness that came to California, 2,000 souls died, and 3,000 were left.[11]

The Mission-born, Franciscan-educated Tac wrote that his people initially attempted to bar the Spaniards from invading their Southern California lands. When the foreigners approached:

"...the chief stood up...and met them," demanding, "...what are you looking for? Leave our Country!"

Pablo Tac went on to describe the preferential conditions and treatment the padres received:

In the mission of San Luis Rey de Francia the Fernandiño [sic] father is like a king. He has his pages, alcaldes, majordomos, musicians, soldiers, gardens, ranchos, livestock....[12]


Mexican and early American eras

The first Peruvian Pepper Tree (Schinus molle) in California was planted here in 1830, now iconic, widely planted, and renamed the California Pepper tree in the state. After the Mexican secularization act of 1833 much of Mission San Luis Rey de Francia land was sold off. Indigenous peoples, previously forced to work on missions, were freed from direct subjugation in the mission system through this act. When Native people at San Luis Rey learned of their impending freedom, they proclaimed together: "We are free! We do not want to obey! We do not want to work!" and left the mission by the thousands, returning to their rural communities "which in some cases their forebears had left two generations earlier."[14]

During the Mexican–American War in Alta California (1846–1847), the Mission was utilized as a military outpost by the United States Army.[6] In July 1847, U.S. military governor of California Richard Barnes Mason created an Indian sub-agency at Mission San Luis Rey, and his men took charge of the mission property in August, appointing Jesse Hunter from the recently arrived Mormon Battalion as sub-agent. Battalion guide Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, the Native American Shoshone child of Sacagawea who had traveled with the Lewis and Clark Expedition forty years earlier, was appointed by Mason as the Alcalde "within the District of San Diego, at or near San Luis Rey" in November 1847. Charbonneau resigned from the post in August, 1848, claiming that "because of his Indian heritage others thought him biased when problems arose between the Indians and the other inhabitants of the district."[15]

Secularization to present

The courtyard of Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, with the first Peruvian Pepper Tree (Schinus molle) planted in California in 1830, visible behind the arch.[6]

With secularization of the mission in 1834, no religious services were held and the Luiseño were left behind by the fleeing Franciscan padres. The Mission's religious services restarted in 1893, when two Mexican priests were given permission to restore the Mission as a Franciscan college.[6] Father Joseph O'Keefe was assigned as an interpreter for the monks. It was he who began to restore the old Mission in 1895. The cuadrángulo (quadrangle) and church were completed in 1905. San Luis Rey College was opened as a seminary in 1950, but closed in 1969.

Episodes 2, 3, 4 and 12 of the Disney-produced Zorro TV series include scenes filmed in 1957 at San Luis Rey, which doubled for the Mission of San Gabriel; Disney added a skull and crossbones to the cemetery entrance. In 1998, Sir Gilbert Levine led members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and, with the special permission of Pope John Paul II, the ancient Cappella Giulia Choir of St. Peter's Basilica, in a series of concerts to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the founding of the mission. These festival concerts constituted the first-ever visit of this 500-year-old choir to the Western Hemisphere. The concerts were broadcast on NPR's Performance Today. In February 2013, the seismic retrofitting was completed.[16]

Today, Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is a working mission, cared for by the people who belong to the parish, with ongoing restoration projects. Mission San Luis Rey has a Museum, Visitors' Center, gardens with the historic Pepper Tree, and the original small cemetery.[17][18][19]

See also

The courtyard of the mission

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia as it appeared in 1986. In 1841, French explorer Eugene Duflot de Mofras produced a sketch of the Mission that depicted a second belfry, thereby supporting the theory that two bell towers were planned, but never completed; the lone tower was also used as a lookout post.[20]

  • Spanish missions in California
  • Las Flores Asistencia
  • Mission San Antonio de Pala
  • LuiseñoMission Indians
  • Population of Native California
  • California mission clash of cultures
  • USNS Mission San Luis Rey (AO-128) – a Buenaventura Class fleet oiler launched during World War II.


  1. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Leffingwell, p. 27
  2. 2.0 2.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Krell273
  3. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Yenne, p. 158
  4. Yenne, p. 156
  5. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Ruscin, p. 196
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Young, p. 18
  7. NHL Details "San Luis Rey Mission Church". National Historic Landmarks Program. National Park Service. NHL Details. 
  8. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named nhlsum
  9. Snell, Charles (1968). [[[:Template:NHLS url]] "San Luis Key Mission Church"] (pdf). National Register of Historic Places – Inventory Nomination Form (National Park Service). Template:NHLS url. Retrieved 22 May 2012. 
  10. [[[:Template:NHLS url]] "San Luis Key Mission Church"] (pdf). Photographs. National Park Service. Template:NHLS url. 
  11. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Lightfoot, p. 108
  12. Lightfoot, p. 105
  13. The earliest surviving first-person writings by a native Californian of life in a mission is by Pablo Tac (1822–1841), a Luiseño from Mission San Luis Rey de Francia. Christian Clifford, author of Meet Pablo Tac, wrote "On January 15, 1834, Father Peyrí, Pablo, and Agapito left San Fernando College [Mexico City] and in February boarded a ship for Europe. They travelled via New York and France, arriving in Barcelona, Spain, on June 21. The 'New' World was coming to meet the 'Old' World." (p.33) Tac arrived in Rome in September 1834 and was enrolled in the College of the Propaganda, studying Latin grammar. He went on to study rhetoric, humanities, and philosophy in preparation for missionary work. It was while at the College that he created Luiseño written language and wrote the "Conversion of the San Luiseños of Alta California." Clifford, Christian (2017). Meet Pablo Tac: Indian from the Far Shores of California. CreateSpace, North Charleston, SC. ISBN 978-1-5425-2930-3. 
  14. Haas, Lisbeth (1996). Conquests and Historical Identities in California, 1769-1936. University of California Press. pp. 38. ISBN 9780520207042. 
  15. Reading, Mrs. James (June 1965). "Jean Baptiste Charbonneau: The Wind River Scout". The Journal of San Diego History 11 (2). 
  16. Neuman, Charlie (6 February 2013). "Mission San Luis Rey's Earthquake Retrofit". San Diego Union Tribune. 
  17. Schlesinger, Nancy (1992-10-29). "Cemeteries Alive With History" (in en-US). Los Angeles Times. 
  18. "Old Mission San Luis Rey de Francia". Old Mission San Luis Rey. 2013. 
  19. Old Mission San Luis Rey Cemetery
  20. Krell, pp. 275–276


  • Engelhardt, Zephyrin, O.F.M. (1920). San Diego Mission. James H. Barry Company, San Francisco, CA. 
  • Engelhardt, Zephyrin, O.F.M. (1922). San Juan Capistrano Mission. Standard Printing Co., Los Angeles, CA. 
  • Forbes, Alexander (1839). California: A History of Upper and Lower California. Smith, Elder and Co., Cornhill, London. 
  • Johnson, John; Crawford, Dinah; O'Neil, Stephen (1998). The Ethnohistoric Basis for Cultural Affiliation in the Camp Pendleton Marine Base Area: Contributions to Luiseno and Juaneno Ethnohistory Based on Mission Register Research. SAIC, Santa Barbara, CA. 
  • Jones, Terry L. and Kathryn A. Klar (eds.) (2007). California Prehistory: Colonization, Culture, and Complexity. Altimira Press, Landham, MD. ISBN 978-0-7591-0872-1. 
  • Krell, Dorothy (ed.) (1979). The California Missions: A Pictorial History. Sunset Publishing Corporation, Menlo Park, CA. ISBN 0-376-05172-8. 
  • Leffingwell, Randy (2005). California Missions and Presidios: The History & Beauty of the Spanish Missions. Voyageur Press, Inc., Stillwater, MN. ISBN 0-89658-492-5. 
  • Lightfoot, Kent G. (2004). Indians, Missionaries, and Merchants: The Legacy of Colonial Encounters on the California Frontiers. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA. ISBN 0-520-20824-2. 
  • Paddison, Joshua (ed.) (1999). A World Transformed: Firsthand Accounts of California Before the Gold Rush. Heyday Books, Berkeley, CA. ISBN 1-890771-13-9. 
  • Ruscin, Terry (1999). Mission Memoirs. Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, CA. ISBN 0-932653-30-8. 
  • Yenne, Bill (2004). The Missions of California. Thunder Bay Press, San Diego, CA. ISBN 1-59223-319-8. 
  • Young, Stanley; Melba Levick (1988). The Missions of California. Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco, CA. ISBN 0-8118-3694-0. 

External links

Template:California Missions