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The Old Franciscan Missions Of California By George Wharton James Characters: 9238

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

The last Mission of the century, the last of Lasuen's administration, and the last south of Santa Barbara, was that of San Luis Rey. Lasuen himself explored the region and determined the site. The governor agreed to it, and on February 27, 1798, ordered a guard to be furnished from San Diego who should obey Lasuen implicitly and help erect the necessary buildings for the new Mission. The founding took place on June 13, in the presence of Captain Grajera and his guard, a few San Juan neophytes, and many gentiles, Presidente Lasuen performing the ceremonies, aided by Padres Peyri and Santiago. Fifty-four children were baptized at the same time, and from the very start the Mission was prosperous. No other missionary has left such a record as Padre Peyri. He was zealous, sensible, and energetic. He knew what he wanted and how to secure it. The Indians worked willingly for him, and by the 1st of July six thousand adobes were made for the church. By the end of 1800 there were 237 neophytes, 617 larger stock, and 1600 sheep.

The new church was completed in 1801-1802, but Peyri was too energetic to stop at this. Buildings of all kinds were erected, and neophytes gathered in so that by 1810 its population was 1519, with the smallest death rate of any Mission. In 1811 Peyri petitioned the governor to allow him to build a new and better church of adobes and bricks; but as consent was not forthcoming, he went out to Pala, and in 1816 established a branch establishment, built a church, and the picturesque campanile now known all over the world, and soon had a thousand converts tilling the soil and attending the services of the church.

In 1826 San Luis Rey reached its maximum in population with 2869 neophytes. From now on began its decline, though in material prosperity it was far ahead of any other Mission. In 1828 it had 28,900 sheep, and the cattle were also rapidly increasing. The average crop of grain was 12,660 bushels.

San Luis Rey was one of the Missions where a large number of cattle were slaughtered on account of the secularization decree. It is said that some 20,000 head were killed at the San Jacinto Rancho alone. The Indians were much stirred up over the granting of the ranches, which they claimed were their own lands. Indeed they formed a plot to capture the governor on one of his southern trips in order to protest to him against the granting of the Temécula Rancho.




The final secularization took place in November, 1834, with Captain Portilla as comisionado and Pio Pico as majordomo and administrator until 1840. There was trouble in apportioning the lands among the Indians, for Portilla called for fifteen or twenty men to aid him in quelling disturbances; and at Pala the majordomo was knocked down and left for dead by an Indian. The inventory showed property (including the church, valued at $30,000) worth $203,707, with debts of $93,000. The six ranches were included as worth $40,437, the three most valuable being Pala, Santa Margarita, and San Jacinto.

Micheltorena's decree of 1843 restored San Luis Rey to priestly control, but by that time its spoliation was nearly complete. Padre Zalvidea was in his dotage, and the four hundred Indians had scarcely anything left to them. Two years later the majordomo, appointed by Zalvidea to act for him, turned over the property to his successor, and the inventory shows the frightful wreckage. Of all the vast herds and flocks, only 279 horses, 20 mules, 61 asses, 196 cattle, 27 yoke oxen, 700 sheep, and a few valueless implements remained. All the ranches had passed into private ownership.

May 18, 1846, all that remained of the former king of Missions was sold by Pio Pico to Cot and José Pico for $2437. Frémont dispossessed their agent and they failed to gain repossession, the courts deciding that Pico had no right to sell. In 1847 the celebrated Mormon battalion, which Parkman so vividly describes in his Oregon Trail, were stationed at San Luis Rey for two months, and later on, a re-enlisted company was sent to take charge of it for a short time. On their departure Captain Hunter, as sub-Indian agent, took charge and found a large number of Indians, amenable to discipline and good workers.

The general statistics from the founding in 1798 to 1834 show 5591 baptisms, 1425 marriages, 2859 deaths. In 1832 there were 27,500 cattle, 2226 horses in 1828, 345 mules in the same year, 28,913 sh

eep in 1828, and 1300 goats in 1832.

In 1892 Father J.J. O'Keefe, who had done excellent work at Santa Barbara, was sent to San Luis Rey to repair the church and make it suitable for a missionary college of the Franciscan Order. May 12, 1893, the rededication ceremonies of the restored building took place, the bishop of the diocese, the vicar-general of the Franciscan Order and other dignitaries being present and aiding in the solemnities. Three old Indian women were also there who heard the mass said at the original dedication of the church in 1802. Since that time Father O'Keefe has raised and expended thousands of dollars in repairing, always keeping in mind the original plans. He also rebuilt the monastery.

San Luis Rey is now a college for the training of missionaries for the field, and its work is in charge of Father Peter Wallischeck, who was for so many years identified with the College of the Franciscans at Santa Barbara.

Immediately on entering the church one observes doorways to the right and left--the one on the right bricked up. It is the door that used to lead to the stairway of the bell-tower. In 1913 the doorway was opened. The whole tower was found to be filled with adobe earth, why, no one really knows, though it is supposed it may have been to preserve the structure from falling in case of an earthquake.

A semicircular arch spans the whole church from side to side, about thirty feet, on which the original decorations still remain. These are in rude imitation of marble, as at Santa Barbara, in black and red, with bluish green lines. The wall colorings below are in imitation of black marble.

The choir gallery is over the main entrance, and there a great revolving music-stand is still in use, with several of the large and interesting illuminated manuscript singing-books of the early days. In Mission days it was generally the custom to have two chanters, who took care of the singing and the books. These, with all the other singers, stood around the revolving music-stand, on which the large manuscript chorals were placed.

The old Byzantine pulpit still occupies its original position at San Luis Rey, but the sounding-board is gone--no one knows whither. This is of a type commonly found in Continental churches, the corbel with its conical sides harmonizing with the ten panels and base-mouldings of the box proper. It is fastened to the pilaster which supports the arch above.

The original paint--a little of it--still remains. It appears to have been white on the panels, lined in red and blue.

The pulpit was entered from the side altar, through a doorway pierced through the wall. The steps leading up to it are of red burnt brick. Evidently it was a home product, and was possibly made by one of Padre Peyri's Indian carpenters, who was rapidly nearing graduation into the ranks of the skilled cabinet-makers.

The Mortuary Chapel is perhaps as fine a piece of work as any in the whole Mission chain. It is beautiful even now in its sad dilapidation. It was crowned with a domed roof of heavy cement. The entrance was by the door in the church to the right of the main entrance. The room is octagonal, with the altar in a recess, over which is a dome of brick, with a small lantern. At each point of the octagon there is an engaged column, built of circular-fronted brick which run to a point at the rear and are thus built into the wall. A three-membered cornice crowns each column, which supports arches that reach from one column to another. There are two windows, one to the southeast, the other northwest. The altar is at the northeast. There are two doorways, with stairways which lead to a small outlook over the altar and the whole interior. These were for the watchers of the dead, so that at a glance they might see that nothing was disturbed.





The altar and its recess are most interesting, the rear wall of the former being decorated in classic design.

This chapel is of the third order of St. Francis, the founder of the Franciscan Order. In the oval space over the arch which spans the entrance to the altar are the "arms" of the third order, consisting of the Cross and the five wounds (the stigmata) of Christ, which were conferred upon St. Francis as a special sign of divine favor.

Father Wallischeck is now (1913) arranging for the complete restoration of this beautiful little chapel and appeals for funds to aid in the work.

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