Founded in 1798, Old Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, known as the “King of the Missions,” is a National Historic Landmark. It is the largest of all the 21 California missions that flourished here in the 1700’s and 1800’s, is home to a community of Franciscan Friars and is open daily to the public in the Franciscan tradition of heritage and hospitality.
Facilities on site include a Retreat Center with day and overnight programs for spiritual renewal, multi-function meeting spaces, a Cemetery open to all people, Mission Gift Shop, Historic Church and interpretive Museum. Mission San Luis Rey holds various community fundraising events throughout the year to support the preservation of the Mission.
The Mission provides both guided and self guided tours. Discover the architectural beauty of the Missions museum, church, sunken gardens and cemetery. The museum features an extensive collection of early mission artifacts. Group tours can be scheduled for 15 or more persons by calling the Museum at 760-757-3651 x115 or emailing [email protected]. The cost for group tours is $12 per person lunch not included. Special Behind the Scenes tours with lunch may also be arranged for $24 per person.
The museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on weekends. Admission to the museum for Adults & Seniors is $4 and for Youth (ages 6-18) is $3. Children ages 5 and under as well as Active Military and their dependents are free-of-charge. Be sure to stop by the gift shop featuring unique and delicate religious artifacts, mementos and books.
Founded in 1798 by Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, successor to Padre Junipero Serra, the Mission was named after St. Louis IX, King of France, who lived during the 13th century. The history of the San Luis Rey area reflects five periods of occupation: Luiseno Indian, Spanish Mission, Mexican Secularization, American Military, and Twentieth Century Restoration.
In 1892 a group of Franciscans from Zacatecas, Mexico sought refuge in California and asked the Bishop for a site to move their novitiate. They were assigned to San Luis Rey under the guidance of F. Joseph Jeremias O’Keefe. Fr. O’Keefe has been referred to as the rebuilder of the mission. From 1892-1912, Fr. O’Keefe repaired the church and rebuilt the permanent living quarters on the foundations of the old mission (where the museum sits today).
Restoration has continued throughout the years since Fr. O’Keefe’s death. Included in this has been the partial rebuilding of the quadrangle in 1949 for a Franciscan college which serves today as a Retreat Center. During the 1950’s and 60’s the Friars uncovered the soldier’s barracks and the lavanderia from layers of dirt accumulated over the years.
In 1984 a restoration effort to stabilize and preserve the exterior of the church building was completed. Conservation of painting and sculptures in the museum collection is an ongoing process, and archaeological investigations continue to unearth the past.