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Mission San Luis Obispo
Mission San Luis Obispo was the fifth one built in California, founded September 1, 1772 by Father Junipero Serra. The name San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was given to honor St. Louis, Toulouse, France.
If you're here because you want to visit the San Luis Obispo Mission, you may want to you may want to read up on its history first. That's on the next page. You can also continue through this guide to take a look at some pictures or just get the location which is below.
If you're looking for background material for a California Fourth Grade report, use this page and the mission history on the next page. If you're building a model for your project, continue to check out the layout and floor plan and take a look at the pictures.
Interesting San Luis Obispo Mission Facts
- Mission San Luis Obispo was started with just one Father
- Mission San Luis Obispo was once remodeled to look like a New England church
- Mission San Luis Obispo is now a parish church
Mission San Luis Obispo Timeline
- 1772 - Father Serra founds Mission San Luis Obispo
- 1789 - Father Cavalier dies
- 1796 - Father Martinez arrives at Mission San Luis Obispo
- 1798 - First grist mill built
- 1804 - 832 neophytes and 2,074 baptisms
- 1819 - Mission San Luis Obispo quadrangle complete
- 1830 - Father Martinez leaves
- 1835 - Secularized
Where Is Mission San Luis Obispo Located?
Mission San Luis Obispo
751 Palm Street
San Luis Obispo, CA
Mission Website and current hoursContinue to 2 of 11 below.
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History of Mission San Luis Obispo: 1796 to Today
Governor Portola moved northward from San Diego in 1769, looking for the Monterey Bay. His party found a small river and a coastal valley near the present location of San Luis Obispo Mission. There were many bears there, so they named the area La Canada de los Osos, Valley of the Bears.
They killed several bears for food and shared the meat with the native people. Their generosity paid off and the natives were so friendly that Father Serra decided to establish a missionary outpost in the valley, half way between San Diego and Carmel. On September 1, 1772, he stopped there, picked a level spot and placed a large wooden cross.
Early Years of Mission San Luis Obispo
Father Serra left Father Jose Cavalier and two Mexican soldiers to begin the building at San Luis Obispo Mission. The soldiers killed many bears in the area and the natives were grateful, giving the Spaniards some food. In 1773, Father Palou arrived with food and live animals and the San Luis Obispo Mission began to grow.
Not all the natives were friendly, and three times during the first two years, the thatched roofs of San Luis Obispo Mission were set on fire by flaming arrows.
By 1783, the population had grown to 600 Indians. They had 700 cattle, 900 sheep, 60 pigs, 110 horses and 25 mules. They raised wheat, corn and beans. In 1789, Father Cavalier died and was buried in the church.
Father Luis Martinez arrived in 1796, and ran San Luis Obispo Mission for the next 34 years.
San Luis Obispo Mission 1800-1820
The San Luis Obispo Mission was at its peak in 1805 with 961 Indians. A new hospital and a second grist mill were built that year.
In 1810, Mexico was breaking away from Spain and stopped sending materials. They also stopped sending money for the priests and soldiers. The soldiers had to ask the priests for food and clothing. Father Martinez was very outspoken about how they were treated and he was often in trouble with the Mexican officials.
In 1816, Father Martinez led a group of Indians from San Luis Obispo Mission to Santa Barbara and San Juan Capistrano to help defend against pirates. His actions did much to repair his relationship with the Mexican Army.
San Luis Obispo Mission in the 1820s-1830s
Father Martinez was an outspoken man who made some enemies during his time here. Finally, in 1830, he was forced to leave after 34 years of service.
Secularization and San Luis Obispo Mission
In 1834, Mexico decided to stop supporting the missionaries and sell the land. The livestock was driven away and the buildings were left to deteriorate. It was sold in 1845. Finally, it was returned to the Catholic church in 1859, but by then it was seriously damaged.
San Luis Obispo Mission in the 20th Century
San Luis Obispo Mission is now used as a church that occupies a prominent place in the middle of town. The church has been expanded to meet the needs of its modern congregation, but the original father's residence is preserved as a museum.Continue to 3 of 11 below.
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Mission San Luis Obispo Facts, Layout, Floor Plan, Buildings and Grounds
Major building at San Luis Obispo started about 1794. Master craftsmen from Mexico taught the Indians to build permanent buildings and trained them in other trades. They steadily built the church and by 1794, it began to look much like it does today. The quadrangle was finished in 1819. In 1820, two mission bells arrived from Lima, Peru.
In 1868, the church was remodeled with white-painted siding and used as a parish church. Later, a New England-style steeple was added. In 1934, the steeple and siding were removed, and the church was restored to its original appearance. The beamed ceiling was also restored in 1947.
The church’s layout in an "L" shape is recent, designed to accommodate the many people who come to the church. Its original layout was rectangular, like most other missions.
Some sources say that San Luis Obispo was the first mission to use a red Spanish tile roof, but records prove that Mission San Antonio actually used them first.Continue to 4 of 11 below.
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Pictures of Mission San Luis Obispo
The Mission San Luis Obispo picture above shows its cattle brand. It was drawn from samples on display at Mission San Francisco Solano and Mission San Antonio.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Mission San Luis Obispo Interior PictureContinue to 6 of 11 below.
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Mission San Luis Obispo Ceiling PictureContinue to 7 of 11 below.
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Mission San Luis Obispo Decorative Painting PictureContinue to 8 of 11 below.
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Mission San Luis Obispo Choir Loft PictureContinue to 9 of 11 below.
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Mission San Luis Obispo Chumash Paintings PictureContinue to 10 of 11 below.
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Mission San Luis Obispo Painting of Chumash PeopleContinue to 11 of 11 below.
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Mission San Luis Obispo Bells Picture
According to the sign on the wall nearby, these bells have names. From left to right, they are:
- Carlos: D pitch, 26 inches diameter, 429 pounds
- Diego: B pitch, 31 inches diameter, 748 pounds
- Antonio: E pitch, 24 inches diameter, 297 pounds
- Gabriel: A pitch, 20 inches diameter, 158 pounds
Around the corner out of this picture are:
- Gabriel: F-sharp pitch, 21.5 inches diameter, 224 pounds
- Luis: A pitch, 20 inches diameter, 158 pounds
They are made of bronze and were cast in Holland.