Mission San Luis Rey de Francia


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San Luis Rey de Francia

Mission San Luis
Mission Interior Front
Mission Altar
Mission Altar Detail
Mission Altar Detail
Mission Altar Detail
Mission Capitol
Original Archway
Graveyard Gateway
Mission Interior Rear
Side Altar
Side Altar
Mission Exterior
Mission Fountain
Mission Exterior
Dome Interior
Mission Exterior

Eighteenth Mission
Date Founded: June 13, 1798
Founder: Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen
Named for: Saint Louis IX, King of France
Mission San Luis Rey
4050 Mission Avenue
Oceanside, CA 92057

Open 10:00am - 4:30pm

Contact Information:
Phone: (760) 757-3651

We are located between Interstate 5 and Interstate 15 on Highway 76 in North San Diego County From Interstate 5:

Exit Highway 76 - Head East approximately 4 miles to Rancho del Oro exit - Mission will be on your left From Interstate 15:

Exit Highway 76 - Head West approximately 15 miles to Rancho del Oro exit - Mission will be on your right



San Luis Rey de Francia was the ninth and last misssion to be founded by Father-President Lasuen, and it closed a critical gap between San Diego and San Juan Capistrano. The district was promising in prospects for conversion. When the Portola party had passed through 20 years earlier, they had found the natives cordial.

Establishment of Mission San Luis Rey de Francia

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is the 18th in a chain of 21 California Missions established by the Spanish Franciscans. Named after Saint Louis IX, King of France, the Mission was founded on June 13, 1798 by Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen in a fertile valley midway between Missions San Diego de Alcala and San Juan Capistrano. Father Antonio Peyri was assigned the task of administrator and served San Luis Rey for 34 years. Father Peyri supervised the construction of the Mission from the very beginning. Along with his fellow Franciscans, he taught the Native Americans about new methods of agriculture and crafts and introduced them to Christianity.

San Luis Rey de Francia, "King of Missions," was the eighteenth of the Franciscan establishments in California; and the second founded in what is now the County of San Diego-second therefore on El Camino Real. In respect of artistry, grandeur and general prosperity it long stood preeminent. Even today the refinement and wide culture of its founder, Fr. Lasuen, and of its first superior, Fr. Antonio Peyri, seem to pervade corridor, patio, garden and churchyard. One feels that very rare souls built and by their lives forever blessed this great spiritual enterprise.

Fifty-four Indians were baptized June 13, 1798, the day Mission San Luis Rey site was dedicated. In July a thousand adobe bricks were ready for the first permanent structure. The church was Of adobe, faced with burnt brick, 30 feet by 189 feet, roofed with "tile of clay." The mortuary chapel was unique among the early churches.

Mission Life

At an early date, the title "King of the Missions" was given to San Luis Rey. It was the largest of all the missions and once the largest building in California. The Mission complex was built in the shape of a quadrangle and its buildings were constructed of adobe. The quadrangle measured nearly five hundred yards square and covered about six acres of land. At one corner of the quadrangle was the Mission church and cemetery. Adjacent structures housed shops, living quarters and storerooms. Mission farm and pasture lands extended in a radius as far as 15 miles. Mission San Luis Rey raised livestock and produced 67,000 bushels of grain in a single year. More baptisms, marriages and funerals were performed in a shorter period of time than at any other mission.

In 1818 San Luis Rey with its six mission ranches, Pala, Santa Margarita, San Jacinto, Santa Ysabel, Temecula and San Pedro, was at the height of its prosperity; the richest, the most populous of all such establishments in California.


Strife engendered by Mexican innovations warned Fr. Peyri, who at sixty-seven years of age, was still in charge, that with secularization the missions would be ruined. Discouraged, he retired; sailing from San Diego on the Pocahontas January 17, 1832. Luisenos demonstrated their affection for him by following down to the bay shore, two even swimming out to the ship and sailing away, forever lost to their former homes.

Life at the Mission flourished until 1834 when secularization took place and the Mission was administered by the Mexican Government. In 1846, the Mission was sold by Mexican Governor Pio Pico for $2,437.00. The Mission's property was divided up, its buildings stripped of all material goods and the Mission left for ruin. The Mission was abandoned except during the Mexican War and shortly thereafter when the United States troops, including the famous Mormon Battalion, were quartered here. The Mission was incorporated into the United States in 1850 when California became the 34th state of the Union. A patent and proclamation restoring Mission San Luis Rey to the Roman Catholic Bishop of Los Angeles was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on March 18, 1865, less than one month before his assassination. However, the Mission remained abandoned for an additional 30 years.

Decline and Rebirth

At San Luis Rey, as at Mission San Diego, American troops, including a part of the Mormon battalion, were quartered at the close of the Mexican war; animals having been stabled in the very church.

Before he went away Fr. Peyri planted certain seeds which had been given him by a sailor who could explain only that they came from South America. They sprouted vigorously and after being transplanted grew quickly into tall saplings - the first "pepper" (schinus molle) trees in California. A row stood outside the cloister at San Luis Rey, but were destroyed by mules and horses. One single tree of Father Peyri's planting still grows in the west enclosure, a part of the old garden, a real pioneer among California trees. After the withdrawal of the troops San Luis Rey fell into decay; the little village of the same name, famous for "poker bets and large drinks," grew up nearby. In 1931 restoration of the mission buildings was begun, with the result that they are today, in charge again of Franciscans, among the finest remaining examoples of early mission architecture. The two gargoyle fountains, unearthed in a neighboring swamp, have been pronounced the only specimens of western Indian sculpture.

In 1892, a group of Franciscans from Zacatecas, Mexico arrived at the Mission to take up residence. Father Joseph Jeremiah O'Keefe, an Irish born, Spanish-speaking Franciscan, came shortly thereafter to San Luis Rey to supervise the Mexican Franciscans and began the arduous task of restoring the Mission with hopes of making it a Franciscan Missionary college. After preliminary repairs, the church building was rededicated on May 12, 1893 by Bishop Mora. Father O'Keefe remained at the Mission until 1912, overseeing the first major reconstruction of San Luis Rey. Through the hard work of the Franciscans led by Father O'Keefe (the re-builder), the Mission was brought back to life.

The years following Father O'Keefe's departure have seen gradual, yet extensive, restoration. Further improvements and the reconstruction of Mission structures have almost completely restored the Mission to its early grandeur. Mission San Luis Rey was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970. However, the Mission does not receive any Federal, State or church funds for its support. The Mission depends upon the generosity and support of its volunteers and visitors to continue the restoration efforts so that Mission San Luis Rey will remain the "King of the Missions".