Sunday, January 28, 2024

Mission San Luis Rey (plus Pioneer Cemetery)

Tori and I visited Mission San Luis Rey yesterday in Oceanside for the first time. Founded in 1798, it was the eighteenth of the twenty-one missions established in California and named after the King of France. Nicknamed "King of the Missions", it covered almost a million acres at its peak and was the largest and most prosperous of all the missions, maintaining 56,000 livestock. Our first stop was the mission church, built in 1815, it is the only surviving one laid out in a cruciform plan. It is also unique for its wooden dome and cupola allowing in light through its 144 panes of glass.

The old mission complex spread out over six acres and was the largest building in California by 1830. Leaving the church, we walked over to the modern Quadrangle where the Carriage Arch still stands. The original quadrangle was a giant four-sided patio surrounded by buildings filled with workshops, classrooms, a kitchen, an infirmary, a winery and dormitories for the Indian converts. The first Peruvian Pepper Tree planted in California in 1830 is still visible through the arch. The iconic species is now widespread throughout the state and has been renamed the California Pepper Tree.

The mission's museum gave us a detailed history of the area from the colonization of native Luiseno Indians by the Spanish priests, to the secularization of the mission by the Mexico government who sold off the land to ranchers and then under American control after the Mexican-American War when Abraham Lincoln returned the mission back to the Catholic Church. Inside, we also visited the Agapito Court and Sacred Garden, the private domains of the Franciscan Friars. Outside, we visited the adobe ruins of the barracks that housed the Spanish soldiers assigned to the mission. Our last stop was the old mission cemetery. The entrance arch still bears the skull and crossbones added by Disney while filming the Zorro tv show on location in 1957.

Leaving the mission, we stopped at the nearby San Luis Rey Pioneer Cemetery. The gate was closed but we could see into the old cemetery that was used to bury the dead of the non-Catholic pioneers to the area starting in the 1860s. Andrew Jackson Myers, the founder of Oceanside was buried here in 1907. After many years of abandonment and vandalization, the Oceanside Historical Society took over protection of the cemetery and the local Mormon Church helped renovate the site in 2013 in honor of their Mormon Battalion pioneers in San Diego. We ended our Oceanside visit with a tasty pasta dinner at nearby Mangia e Bevi.

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