Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana

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Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana (1797-1834) - A Spanish mission established in 1797 by Father Fermin Lasuen in present day Mission Hills, Los Angeles County, California. Associated with the Presidio of Santa Barbara. Named for Catholic Saint Ferdinand. Secularized in 1834. Also known as Mission San Fernando.

Mission San Fernando Convento Colonnade
Mission San Fernando Convento
Mission San Fernando Church and Workshops

The Spanish Period (1769-1821)

Father Fermin Lasuen Statue
Convento Governor's Room (VIP Room)
Mayordomo Quarters
Convento Main Entrance to the Mission

The Spanish period began in California with the building of Mission San Diego de Alcala, and the Presidio of San Diego in 1769. The Spanish Presidio provided a support system for the attached missions that included military troops. The mission provided provided a complete community for the converted native peoples that included agriculture and industry activities as well as religious instruction and services. Typically a very limited military presence was maintained at the missions and the presidio acted as the garrison for the surrounding missions.

The Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana was founded on 8 Sep 1797, by Father Fermin Lasuen, as the 17th of twenty-one Spanish missions founded in California. The site selected was almost midway between Mission San Gabriel and Mission San Buenaventura and close to the pueblo of Los Angles.

The mission was built in a traditional quadrangle with the mission church at the north end of the quadrangle. Adobe buildings surrounding the remaining three sides of the quadrangle included workshops and quarters.

The Convento building was built between 1808 and 1822 adjacent to the quadrangle and served as a hospice (hotel) for visitors and travelers along the mission road. This was a large adobe building 243' by 50' with a long colonnade of 21 arches (counting the two on the ends) and a central entrance into a large reception room (La Sala). This entrance and reception room served as the main entrance into the mission and welcomed all visitors. Other Rooms in the Convento included a 1,700 volume library and a VIP suite (Governor's Room) for distinguished visitors. The restored Convento is the only remaining original building on the present mission grounds.

Next to the Convento was the mayordomo's quarters. The mayordomo was like the forman of the mission and oversaw day-to-day operations except for religious and military activities. His quarters were probably the most comfortable in the mission outside of the VIP quarters in the Convento.

The initial church building was complete two months after the mission was dedicated but it was just the first of the church buildings. Earthquakes were especially hard on the church because of the height. The church was rebuilt twice during the mission period and twice during modern times.

  • 1st (1797-1800) First Church
  • 2nd (1800-1806) Built to replace the first church
  • 3rd (1806-1812) Destroyed by 1812 Earthquake and rebuilt
  • 4th (1814-1971) Destroyed by 1971 Sylmar Earthquake and rebuilt
  • 5th (1974-1994) Damaged by 1994 Northridge Earthquake and rebuilt
  • 6th (1994-Present) The current church is a replica of the 1806 church.

In 1811 the mission population was at 1,081 and remained above 1,000 until 1821. This period of high population coincided with the Mexican Revolution when the missions were on their own and had to support themselves and the associated Presidios. Spain withdrew support for the whole California mission chain during the revolution. During this period the mission prospered, by 1819 the livestock on the 121,542 acre mission lands totaled 21,745 head (cattle, horses and sheep). The mission also produced large quantities of wheat, barley, corn, beans, grapes and fruit. The Convento was built during this period to deal with ever increasing numbers of visitors and travelers on mission road.

Mexican Period (1822-1846)

The Mexican period began with the end of the Mexican Revolution around 1820. Mexican troops occupied the presidios and Mexican governors ran the province of Alta California. The Mexican government began the process of secularization (turning church lands over to private interests) around 1831 and passed laws in 1833 mandating secularization of all missions in Mexico. Secularization gradually ended church ownership of community property. Most of the missions and presidios were abandoned and fell into disrepair as the lands were redistributed to private owners.

Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana was secularized in 1834. In 1845, Mexican Governor Pio Pico leased the mission property to his brother Andres Pico as his summer home.

The American Period (1846-Present)

The Mexican War was declared by the U.S. Congress on 11 May 1846 in response to a Mexican attack on U.S. troops in Texas. The declaration of war opened the door for American occupation of California. The American period began when American forces occupied San Diego in 1846. With end of the war, Mexico ceded all of upper California to the Americans in 1848 and a new round of land redistribution began.

On 19 Feb 1853, Archbishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany filed a claim on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church for the return of all former mission lands in the State of California. Ownership of 1,051 acres (for all practical intents being the exact area of land occupied by the original mission buildings, cemeteries, and gardens) was transferred back to the Catholic Church by land patents and proclamations signed by U.S. Presidents between 1855 and 1874.

Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana was returned to the Catholic Church in 1861.

Current Status

Active Roman Catholic Church in Mission Hills, Los Angeles County, California.

USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 246022

Location: Mission Hills, Los Angeles County, California.

Maps & Images

Lat: 34.273584 Long: -118.461446



Visited: 11 Dec 2012

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