Old Mission San Luis Rey

The Old Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside is a former Spanish mission in the San Diego County, California. Established by Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuen in 1798 and named after St. Louis IX, King of France, the mission was the eighteenth Spanish mission established in California and lent its name to the Luiseño tribe of Mission Indians. Photo: steheap/Fotolia



Surrounded by the present-day city of Oceanside, CA, the current church, which was built in 1811 is the third of its kind on this location and is a listed as a National Historic Landmark for its beautiful design. Today, the mission, nicknamed the ‘King of the Missions’ due to its vast size, operates as a parish church of the Diocese of San Diego, retreat center, and museum.

Located in the valley along the Royal Road, The Old Mission San Luis Rey is the 18th mission of 21 that were established along the California coast with the goal of educating the native peoples and converting them to Christianity. Spanish Missions, in particular, were geared towards making the indigenous people of region productive members of society and were truly loved by the native peoples, living and working together in harmony.

More than two centuries old, the history of the Old Mission San Luis Rey reflects the five periods of occupation that the San Luis Rey area experienced, including American Military, Spanish Mission, Luiseño Indians, Mexican Secularization, and Twentieth Century Restoration.

The first people to inhabit the land in the area were the Luiseño Indians who lived here for hundreds of years in the valleys, mountains and along the coast. The Mission was established during the Spanish occupation after the threat of Russian encroachment on the area and began with just a handful of padres, soldiers, and few supplies.

The law of secularization was passed in 1821 when Mexico won it independence and gave each mission a decade to fulfill their function of providing the local Indians instruction in the faith. The mission was used as an operational base by the American Military from 1847 to 1857 with notable figures serving at the mission including Kit Carson, General Stephen W. Kearny and the Battalion of Mormon Volunteers. In 1892, a group of Franciscan monks from Zacatecas in Mexico was given refuge at the Mission and contributed to the 20th-century restoration of the Mission. Photo: Craig Hanson/Fotolia

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»Architectural Style

Architectural Style

The Old Mission San Luis Rey is architecturally distinctive due to the artful combination of Spanish Colonial, Spanish Renaissance, Moorish, and Mudéjar architectural styles. Shaped in the form of a cross with interiors of double-dome wooden construction, the Mission was built by the native tribes with an array of materials ranging from mud bricks, straw, and manure, chaff, and water.

The Museum at the Old Mission San Luis Rey is home to a collection of artifacts from the five periods of occupation that the San Luis Rey area experienced, including American Military, Spanish Mission, Luiseno Indian, Mexican Secularization, and Twentieth Century Restoration.

The Franciscan Retreat Center at Old Mission San Luis Rey offers an array of guest amenities ranging from guest rooms, beautiful gardens and dining and banquet services. The Retreat Center can sleep up to 93 guests with simply furnished guest rooms, European-style restrooms in the hallways with private showers and toilets and central climate control.

The property is set on 56 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens and walkways with a swimming pool, basketball and volleyball court, and a shady Picnic Pavilion. The Mission has many beautiful gardens in which guests and visitors can use for meditation and prayer on spiritual retreats, and the Stations of the Cross are a perfect backdrop for prayer and meditative walks. The Historic Mission Church is also available for daily meditation and is open daily from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm and guests also have access to the Retreat Center Chapel.

The retreat also offers dining and banquet services with meals served in a buffet style in the dining room, which can seat up to 100 guests. A spacious patio with outdoor seating is available for socials, and special dinners and professional staff are on hand to continue the Franciscan tradition of heritage and hospitality. Photo: Ronald Discipulo /Fotolia

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»Visitor Information

Visitor Information

The Old Mission San Luis Rey is located at 4050 Mission Avenue in Oceanside.

Founded in 1798, Old Mission Cemetery is located in the shadow of the Historic Church and features beautifully manicured gardens, fountains, and statues. The Old Mission Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in North County San Diego and welcomes all faiths.

The Franciscan Retreat Center at Old Mission San Luis Rey offers a variety of spiritual, healing, and revitalization retreats, as well as a range of religious and educational programs. The Retreat Center boasts modern meeting rooms complete with the latest technology, including televisions with DVD/VCR players, and free wireless Internet that can accommodate up to 120 guests. Meeting rooms can be custom arranged to suit all needs and feature theater style seating with lecterns and podiums, whiteboards and pianos.

Back to: Best Things to Do in Oceanside Address: 4050 Mission Ave, Oceanside, CA 92057, Phone: 760-757-3651 Photo: Craig Hanson/Fotolia

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Old Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, California

  • History, Photo: Courtesy of Craig Hanson - Fotolia.com
  • Architectural Style, Photo: Courtesy of Ronald Discipulo - Fotolia.com
  • Visitor Information, Photo: Courtesy of Craig Hanson - Fotolia.com
  • Cover Photo: Courtesy of steheap - Fotolia.com