Brief History of San Luis Rey

Although the last mission to be founded in the south, Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, also known as the “King of the Missions”, came to be the largest and richest of all. A great quadrangle was 500 feet on a side. An intricate aqueduct system supplied water for the mission and gardens as well as for pools used for bathing and laundry. In the year 1831 an incredible 16,000 cattle, 25,500 sheep and 2,150 horses graced the far-flung ranchos. 395,000 bushels of grain and 2,500 barrels of wine were produced by that same year.

The original kitchen of San Luis Rey de Francia

Mexico, once free from Spain, began to divide the spoils of the mission system. Governor Pio Pico and his brother alone appropriated 90,000 acres of Mission San Luis Rey land for themselves. By 1846 the last vestige of mission life had disappeared. Finally, the U. S. Government gathered the last of the Indians into a “temporary” home on a reservation at Pala. They are still there, the only original site where Mission Indians are still ministered to.

The original decree, signed by President Abraham Lincoln on March 18, 1861, which returned the mission buildings and a few surrounding acres to the Church, is displayed today in the mission museum. Even so, years of vandalism and neglect followed before Franciscans from Mexico returned in 1892, to begin a restoration which has recaptured much of the grandeur of old.