The 18th California Mission
Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen founded the Mission San Luis de Francia on June 13th, 1798. It was the 18th of California’s 21 missions, and it marked what was by far the most successful attempt by missionaries to establish a presence in California.
The Largest California Mission
The mission was the largest of the 21 built, and for a time was the largest building in California. It occupied a space of approximately six acres. The church alone is 180 feet long, 28 feet wide, and 30 feet tall. It was named for Saint Louis IX, King of France in the 13th century, and itself became known as “King of the Missions.”
Father Peyri and the Native Americans
After its dedication, Mission San Luis Rey de Francia was left in the care of Father Antonio Peyri. Father Peyri was extremely popular with the local Natives and he cultivated what would eventually become a thriving community. Despite his hard work and local popularity, the Mexican Government mandated that Father Peyri return to Spain in 1832. It is fabled that the local Indians followed him to the San Diego Harbor and begged him to stay. When he insisted that he must go, two Native boys chose to accompany him back to Spain. Pablo Tac, one of the Indian boys, became a priest and wrote an autobiography of his journey with Father Peyri. It is clear that Father Peyri contributed substantially to the success of the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia.
How Did Mission San Luis Rey de Francia Support Itself?
Like most California missions, the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia supported itself and the Native inhabitants of the area by growing crops of wheat and corn. They also raised herds of horses and cattle, and cultivated grapes in a vineyard. The mission’s economic success supported its missionaries, local Indians, and resting travelers. This was the most successful of all missions.