Mission San Fernando Rey de España

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Mission San Fernando Rey de España was founded on "The Feast of the Birth of Mary" (September 8), 1797. The settlement is located on the former Encino Rancho in the Mission Hills community of northern Los Angeles, near the site of the first gold discovery in Alta California.


Mission San Fernando Rey de España 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).

In 1845, Governor Pío Pico declared the Mission buildings for sale and, in 1846, made Mission San Fernando Rey de España his headquarters as Rancho Ex-Mission San Fernando. The Mission was utilized in a number of ways during the late 19th century: 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. 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 20th century, 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.

Mission industries

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, Bush, 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.

Mission bells

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.

In popular culture
  • The sanctuary interior was used for Dragnet 1969's episode 15, "The Christmas Story".
  • The tour interior and courtyard scenes of the Alamo in Pee-wee's Big Adventure were shot here in 1985.