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Published: August 16th 2019
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia. Founded June 13, 1798 as the 18th of the California missions. "The King of the Missions". Convento and church.
On Friday, our first full day in Southern California on this trip, we drove down from Anaheim to San Diego County to see Mission San Luis Rey. Mission San Luis Rey de Francia was founded on June 13, 1798 as the 18th of the California missions. It is known as The King of the Missions".
The May Gray morning coastal fog was present most of the drive along the San Diego Freeway (I-5). I turned off at the freeway at Las Flores View Point scenic overlook for a view of the Pacific coastline. It afforded a nice view up the coast as far as San Onofre. A colony of squirrels, apparently a famous one, lives here. They and the seagulls are quite used to people. Then some excitement! The surrounding land and beachfront is part of the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base. A unit of Marines on maneuvers came driving along the beach road below us. Shortly, a Marine helicopter swooped in.
On to Oceanside and the mission. Mission San Luis Rey is a few miles inland. Driving along California Highway 76, the hillsides of North San Diego County were still covered in purple and yellow wildflowers, remnants of
Mission Church and Bell Tower
Mission Church and bell tower. Completed in 1815. Mission San Luis Rey de Francia.
the Superbloom in April. As at all the California missions, a self-guided tour brochure is available at the gift shop. There is an admission fee to visit the mission museum, but not the church itself.
The mission church, completed in 1815, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The San Luis Rey Church is the only surviving mission church laid out in a cruciform plan. It is 165.5 feet in length and the nave spans 27.5 feet in width by 30 feet in height. Four bells hang in a three-story domed bell tower. The church was built with only one bell tower, though it is likely another was planned. Inside, the altar is topped with a figure of Saint Louis (Louis IX of France, 1214-1270). The cruciform plan of the nave allows a dome at the crossing. This is a design element unique to San Luis Rey among the California missions. The octagonal wooden dome is topped by a lantern admitting light into the nave. Noon Mass was about to begin and so we stayed for it. The Franciscans returned to San Luis Rey in 1893 and continue to oversee the mission as an active parish.
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia. Mission church. Baptismal font.
The San Luis Rey museum contains objects from the early and later periods in its history. Although San Luis Rey was one of the last missions founded it rapidly became the most prosperous of the California missions, with a population that reached 2,869 in 1825, over three times the mission average. Restoration of the mission began in 1895 under Fr. Joseph O'Keefe. Another unique item at San Luis Rey is the presence of stone gargoyles carved by the local Payómkawichum (Luiseño) people and an example of local California Native American sculpture. In the area of popular culture, several episodes of Disney's Zorro
TV series were filmed at San Luis Rey. Some of the objects used in filming, such as doors, are on display.
By now the sun had dissipated the May Gray. Outside, to the west, is the Retreat Garden. A large carriage arch, one of the original of the mission courtyard's 32 arches leads to the garden. Inside is a large California Pepper Tree planted in 1830. Modern buildings in the mission style were built alongside the garden in 1949 for San Luis Rey College. They form the Retreat Center today. Stepping back from the garden, one can
Mission Church Nave
Mission church nave. Mission San Luis Rey de Francia.
view the sweep of the church and the twelve rebuilt arches of the convento. San Luis Rey is one of the most beautiful of the California missions.
A most interesting story we learned was that of Agapito Amamix (1820-1837). Agapito, along with Pablo Tac (1822-1841), was a member of the indigenous Payómkawichum (Luiseño) people connected to Mission San Luis Rey. Both individuals accompanied Fr. Antonio Peyrí when he left the mission in 1832. Traveling to Mexico, Spain and finally Rome, they were enrolled in the Collegio Urbano de Propaganda Fide in 1834 to be trained as missionaries. Both young men died in Rome. The Agapito Court is named for him.
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