The Spanish Missions in California: Mission San Luis Rey de Francia

The Spanish Missions in present-day California are a subject of interest to many though for many outside of that region of the world it is more familiar in name that anything more tangible. By way of background, the Spanish missions were comprised of twenty one outposts -- or "missions" -- which were established between 1769 and 1833 under the governance of the Franciscans in what was then New Spain. Their purpose was as an evangelical outreach to the Native Americans of the region as well as the attempt to turn the native population into Spanish subjects. After the Mexican secularization act of 1833, these missions were stripped from ecclesiastical ownership and control and put instead under state.

Many changes would come about under this and other transitions down the decades but the Spanish mission churches fortunately have remained and are amongst the oldest architecture of the region. Today we will look at one of these missions, Mission San Luis Rey de Francia in what is today called Oceanside, California.

Mission San Luis Rey was founded on June 12, 1798; it was the eighteenth mission founded and became one of the most prosperous -- no doubt why it has been nicknamed the "king of the missions."

The current church of this particular mission was not the first on the site, but in fact the third, being built in 1815 and it is considered a particular good example of Spanish mission architecture. Let's take a look.

The high altar

Side altar of St. Francis

Side altar featuring the Man of Sorrows

The pulpit

Here in addition are some historical photographs taken at the end of the nineteenth century, shortly after the Franciscans returned showing both the them and the church as it was at that time.

Franciscans from Mexico in the restored mission, 1892. 

Liturgical books of the mission as displayed in 1913.

A Side Altar to St. Francis as seen in 1899. 


View towards the narthex from the nave, 1899

Finally, we will conclude with a quick look at some of the objects found in the museum of San Luis Rey.

A late 18th or early 19th century statue of St. Francis, produced in Mexico.

One of the chant books of the mission -- opened to the proper of the office for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Some of the historical vestments of the mission -- Spanish style of course.

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