The California Missions On-Line Project
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia
Founded June 13, 1798

Founding of the mission

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia was founded on June 13, 1798, by Father Fermin Lasuen, Father-Presidente of the Mission Chain after Father Junipero Serra's death. It was the 18th mission in the 21 mission chain in Alta California. It was named for Saint Luis IX, King of France in the 1200's. It was the last mission to be founded by Father Lasuen. Father Anthony Peyri was put in charge of the mission. It was he who designed and supervised the building of the entire mission. The church is 180 feet long, 28 feet wide, and 30 feet high. It was one of the largest missions covering over 6 acres of land. It was known as "King of the Missions".

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Local Indians

The Luiseno Indians loved the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia. In fact, more Indians lived at this mission than any other mission in Alta California. In the early 1830's the mission had 2,800 Indians living in its boundaries. The main reason was the padre, Father Peyri. He stayed at the mission for 33 years. When the Mexican government ordered him to return to Spain in 1832, the Indians followed him to the San Diego harbor and begged him to stay but, he was forced to leave. Two Indian boys traveled with him to Spain. One of them Pablo Tac, became a priest and wrote his life story. This is the only known record to be written by a mission Indian.

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Economy of the mission

The economy at Mission La Purisima Concepcion 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. Mission San Luis Rey de Francia raised more livestock than any other mission. Their herds reached 27,000 head of cattle, 26,000 sheep, and thousands of horses. The crops averaged 5,000 bushels a year. It was Father Peyri who brought the first pepper tree to California. This was the most successful of all the missions.

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

The buildings were arranged around a 500 by 500 foot quadrangle. That is nearly the size of 2 football fields long. In 1826 a visitor from France described this mission as looking like "a Palace". There were many visitors to this mission.

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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. 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. This was just two years after the departure of Father Peyri. The mission decayed rapidly, the livestock and mission goods were all stolen and the crops died. The Indians went to live in the hills and nearby valleys. Governor Pio Pico sold the mission for $2,437 to his relatives even though the mission was worth over $200,000 at the time.

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No services were held at the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia for 46 years. It wasn't until 1892 when two Mexican padres were given permission to restore the mission as a monastery. Father Joseph O'Keefe was assigned to the mission as an interpreter for the monks. It was he who began to restore the old mission in 1895. The quadrangle and church were completed in 1905.

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Current use
Click here to see a video of the cemetery - still in use today

Today Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is a working mission. It is cared for by the people who belong to the parish. It is still being restored today. There is a museum and visitors center at the mission.

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Graphic tour
Click below 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 Luis Rey de Francia?

Junipero Serra
Gaspar de Portola
Fermin Lasuen
Sebastian Vizcaino

2. Mission San Luis Rey de Francia was founded....?

June 13, 1798
September 21, 1769
April 21, 1782
June 14, 1804

3. What Indian Tribe was in the area of the San Luis Rey de Francia Mission?


4. Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is know as...?

Queen of the Missions
King of the Missions
Princess of the Missions
Father Serra's home

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. San Luis Rey de Francia was the most ......mission?


8. Who was the Indians' favorite padre at the mission?

Father Serra
Father Lasuen
Father Peyri
Father O'Keefe

9. What happened in 1832?

An earthquake
The Indians left the mission
Missions were taken over by Mexican priests
The priest was forced to leave

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 Luis Rey sites:

California Mission Internet Trail

The Spanish Missions of California

California Missions

California Missions

Welcome to Mission San Luis Rey - History of the mission, links to related sites and information about the mission cemetery, the retreat center and its calendar, the mission museum and the gift shop. Also includes a map to the mission, information about educational packets and frequently asked questions.

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