The California Missions On-Line Project
Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana
Founded September 8, 1797

Founding of the mission

Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana was founded on September 8, 1797 by Father Fermin Lasuen, Presidente of the California Missions Chain after the death of Father Junipero Serra. It was the 17th mission in the 21 mission chain in Alta California. It was named for Saint Ferdinand III, King of Spain, who lived in the 1200's. The church is 243 feet long and 50 feet wide. There are 21 Roman arches along the front of the mission. It was the 4th mission founded by Father Lasuen during the summer of 1797.

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Local Indians

In 1804 nearly 1,000 Indians lived at the mission. The Indians at the mission learned the trades of the missions. Blacksmith, farming, ranching, carpentry, weaving, leathermaking, brick making, and soapmaking all became important trades at the mission. They were also known for their winemaking. The Indians at San Fernando were famous for their grapes and wine. There are over 2,000 people buried in the cemetery at the mission, most of them are Indians.

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Economy of the mission

The economy at Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana was similar to the other missions in that they planted crops of wheat and corn. They also planted vineyards, and raised cattle and sheep. The agriculture was needed not only to maintain the mission community and the nearby Indians, but was used for trade and served to visitors to the mission. San Fernando's most successful year was 1819 when it recorded 12,800 cattle, 7,800 sheep, 176 goats, 45 pigs, 144 mules and 780 horses. Cattle raising was the biggest industry for the mission. The mission had large vineyards with grapevines that came directly from Spain. In 1832, records show that the mission had 32,000 grapevines and 1,600 fruit trees.

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The community
Click here to see a video Inside the Mission Quadrangle

When you approach Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana, you will not even notice the church building. This is because for years the mission was used as a rest stop, a hotel and inn for weary travellers. The mission was built more as an inn and that is why the church itself is off from the road.

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After Mexico won its independence from Spain, it found that it could no longer afford to keep the missions running as Spain had done. In 1834, Mexico decided to end the mission system and sell all of the lands. They offered the lands to the Indians who did not want the lands or could not come up with the purchase price. The lands were divided into smaller Ranchos and sold to Mexican citizens who were helpful during the war for independence. In 1845, Governor Pio Pico declared mission buildings for sale and in 1846, made San Fernando Rey de Espana his headquarters. In 1842, the mayordomo of the mission was digging for onions when he discovered gold on the mission grounds. This was 6 years before the famous gold rush of northern California. The mission was used for many things during the late 1800's; it was a station for the Butterfield Stage Lines; it was used as storerooms for the Porter Land and Water Company; and in 1896, the quadrangle was actually used as a hog farm. After nearly 30 years, the missions were returned to the Catholic Church. Although some of the missions had already been returned to the church, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed an Act declaring that all of the 21 missions in the California mission chain would become the property of the Catholic Church and have remained so since that time.

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Click here to see a video of an original wall

San Fernando's church became a working church again in 1923 when the Oblate priests arrived. Many attempts were made to restore the old mission from the early 1900's, but it was not until the Hearst Foundation gave a large gift of money in the 1940's, that the mission was finally restored. In 1971, a large earthquake damaged the church which had to completely rebuilt. The repairs were completed in 1974.

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Current use
Click here to see a video linking the past to the present

Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana is a beautifully restored mission. It continues to be very well cared for and is still used as a parish church. It has a very busy and active life as a parish church.

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Graphic tour
Click here to see a video Inside the Mission Church
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Mission Quiz

Objective: answer 7 questions correctly. JavaScript required!

1. Who was the founder of Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana?

Juan Bautista de Anza
Gaspar de Portola
Fermin Lasuen
Junipero Serra

2. Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana was founded....?

September 8, 1797
September 21, 1769
May 5, 1783
June 14, 1804

3. Who was the Mission named after?

an explorer
Saint Ferdinand III, King of Spain
a Franciscan priest
Fr. Junipero Serra

4. When did the Mission once again become a working church?


5. Who did the actual building of the missions?

construction companies
the priests
the soldiers
the local Indians

6. What happened to the missions in 1834?

They opened
The Indians took over

7. Who gave money so that the rebuilding of the church could begin?

Local Indians
California Mission Rebuilding Society
The Hearst Foundation
Franciscan Priests

8. Who was the Mexican governor that made the mission his headquarters?

Don Francisco Reyes
Gaspar de Portola
Pio Pico
Father Serra

9. What happened in 1842?

An earthquake
The Mission was burned to the ground
gold was discovered at the Mission

10. What did Abraham Lincoln agree to in 1863?

Formally return the Mission lands to the Church
Run for President of the United States
Visit the San Antonio de Padua Mission
force the Indians to leave the Mission

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The Mission Page | The Assessment Page |Main Page

Other San Fernando Rey de Espana sites:

California Mission Internet Trail

The Spanish Missions of California

California Missions

This project written by Rob Garretson in partial fulfilment of the Master's of Arts Degree from Cal Poly Pomona

Please send questions and/or comments to Mr. Garretson

This page last updated on February 28, 2015