Mission San Fernando Rey de España
|This article is part of a series on the|
Spanish missions in California
Mission San Fernando Rey de España, circa 1899.
|Location:||Los Angeles, California|
|Coordinates:||34° 16′ 23.16″ N, 118° 27′ 40.32″ W|
|Name as Founded:||La Misión del Señor Fernando, Rey de España |
|English Translation:||The Mission of Saint Ferdinand, King of Spain|
|Patron Saint:||Ferdinand III of Castile |
|Nickname(s):||"Mission of the Valley" |
|Founding Date:||September 8, 1797 |
|Founded By:||Father Fermín Lasuén |
|Founding Order:||Seventeenth |
|Military District:||Second |
|Tataviam, Tongva |
Fernandeño, Gabrielińo 
|Native Place Name(s):||'Achooykomenga, Pasheeknga |
|Year of Neophyte Population Peak:||1811 |
|Neophyte Population:||782 |
|Neophyte Population in 1832:||1,081 |
|Returned to the Church:||1862|
|Caretaker:||Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles|
|Current Use:||Chapel-of-ease / Museum|
|National Historic Landmark:||#NPS–71001076|
|Date added to the NRHP:||1999|
|California Historical Landmark:||#157|
Mission San Fernando Rey de España is a former religious outpost established by Spanish colonists on the west coast of North America in the present-day State of California. Founded on September 8 ("The Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary"), 1797 by Roman Catholics of the Franciscan Order, the settlement was the seventeenth in the twenty-one mission Alta California chain. Named after a 13th-century Spanish monarch, the Mission is situated near the site of the first gold discovery in Alta California. Designated as a historic landmark at both the state and national levels, today the Mission serves as museum and as a chapel-of-ease within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Another mission bearing the name San Fernando Rey de España is Misión San Fernando Rey de España de Velicatá in Baja California.
Mission Period (1769 – 1833)
The Mission was founded on September 8, 1797 by Father Fermín Lasuén, making it the fourth mission site he had established in as many months. The prime location the padre selected, located along the principal highway leading to the Pueblo de Los Angeles, had been occupied by Francisco Reyes (then Los Angeles' mayor). However, after brief negotiations construction of the first buildings was soon underway (Mission records list Reyes as godfather to the first infant baptized at San Fernando).
Rancho Period (1834 – 1849)
In 1842, gold was discovered on a nearby ranch, and the area was soon overrun with prospectors. A rumor that the missionaries had been prospecting gold drew the gold-seekers to the church, who dug up the floor looking for buried treasure (this activity continued into the early 1900s). In 1845, Governor Pío Pico declared the Mission buildings for sale and, in 1846, made Mission San Fernando Rey de España his headquarters.
California Statehood (1850 – 1900)
President Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation on May 31, 1862 that restored ownership of the Mission proper to the Roman Catholic Church. The Mission was utilized in a number of ways during the late 1800s: it was a station for the Butterfield Stage Lines; it served as a warehouse for the Porter Land and Water Company; and in 1896, the quadrangle was used as a hog farm.
20th century and beyond (1901 – present)
San Fernando's church became a working church again in 1923 when the Oblate priests arrived. Many attempts were made to restore the old Mission from the early 1900s, but it was not until the Hearst Foundation gave a large gift of money in the 1940s, that the Mission was finally restored. In 1971, a large earthquake damaged the church, which had to be completely rebuilt. The repairs were completed in 1974. It continues to be very well cared for and is still used as a chapel-of-ease. In 2003 comedian Bob Hope was interred in the Bob Hope Memorial Gardens.
- National Register of Historic Places #NPS–88002147 — Convento Building
- Los Angeles Historic–Cultural Monument #23
- Los Angeles Historic–Cultural Monument #2355 — Convento Building
The goal of the missions was, above all, to become self-sufficient in relatively short order. Farming, therefore, was the most important industry of any mission. Prior to the establishment of the missions, the native peoples knew only how to utilize bone, seashells, stone, and wood for building, tool making, weapons, and so forth. The missionaries discovered that the Indians, who regarded labor as degrading to the masculine sex, had to be taught industry in order to learn how to be self-supportive. The result was the establishment of a great manual training school that comprised agriculture, the mechanical arts, and the raising and care of livestock. Everything consumed and otherwise utilized by the natives was produced at the missions under the supervision of the padres; thus, the neophytes not only supported themselves, but after 1811 sustained the entire military and civil government of California.
Several underground springs provided abundant water to the Mission complex, and a vast irrigation system was constructed to supply the surrounding lands.
Bells were vitally important to daily life at any mission. The bells were rung at mealtimes, to call the Mission residents to work and to religious services, during births and funerals, to signal the approach of a ship or returning missionary, and at other times; novices were instructed in the intricate rituals associated with the ringing the mission bells. A hundred-pound bell was unearthed in an orange grove near the Mission in 1920. It carried the following inscription (translated from Russian): "In the Year 1796, in the month of January, this bell was cast on the Island of Kodiak by the blessing of Archimandrite Joaseph, during the sojourn of Alexsandr Baranov." It is not known how this Russian Orthodox artifact from Kodiak, Alaska made its way to a Catholic mission in Southern California.
Notes and references
- (PD) Painting: Edwin Deakin
- Leffingwell, p. 49
- Krell, p. 263
- Ruscin, p. 137
- Yenne, p. 148
- Ruscin, p. 196
- Forbes, p. 202
- Yenne, p. 151
- Ruscin, p. 195
- Krell, p. 315: as of December 31, 1832; information adapted from Engelhardt's Missions and Missionaries of California.
- Krell, p. 315: Information adapted from Engelhardt's Missions and Missionaries of California.
- Engelhardt 1920, pp. 300-301
- Young, p. 39
- Leffingwell, p. 53
- Engelhardt 1922, p. 211