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Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

From Academic Kids

The entrance lobby and belfry of the Mission San Luís Obispo de Tolosa in  . A statue of Fray  stands outside the church.
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The entrance lobby and belfry of the Mission San Luís Obispo de Tolosa in June 2004. A statue of Fray Junípero Serra stands outside the church.

Mission San Luís Obispo de Tolosa was founded on September 1, 1772. It was the fifth mission founded by Father Junípero Serra, located on the Central Coast of California in what is now the City of San Luis Obispo. The location was chosen because it was halfway between San Diego and Monterey. It was named for Saint Louis, Bishop of Toulouse.

The Mission church of San Luis Obispo is an unusual design in that its combination of belfry and vestibule is found nowhere else among California missions. The main nave is long and narrow (as is the case with other mission churches), but at San Luis Obispo there is a secondary nave of almost equal size situated to the right of the altar, making this the only "L"-shaped mission church among all of the California missions.

In 1776, nearby Chumash Indians (who had also built the Mission) attacked, setting it ablaze with burning arrows. The roof, made of tule reeds, burned readily, and the fathers came up with the idea of tiling the roof with ceramic tiles (an idea which caught on at all of the other missions).

The Spanish soldiers who kept the Mission's safety were successful in killing many of the bears that roamed the area, and thus Mission San Luís Obispo de Tolosa supplied many of the other missions with bear meat. The Santa Margarita Asistencia functioned as an outpost, chapel, and storehouse for Mission San Luís Obispo. The Mission padres and Indians reportedly carried on extensive grain cultivation at the site.

In 1845, Governor Pío Pico declared the Mission buildings for sale and he sold everything except the church for a total of $510. John C. Frémont and his California Battalion used the Mission as a base of operations during their war with Mexico in 1846 (see Bear Flag Revolt).

Missing image
San_Luis_Obispo_de_Tolosa_circa_1900_Keystone-Mast.jpg
Mission San Luís Obispo de Tolosa as it looked circa 1900. Note that the wooden belfry has been removed and the chapel façade has been modified substantially in the recent photo above.

The Mission fell into ruins during the period of secularization and the priests that were left would rent out rooms to help support the Mission. The Mission San Luís Obispo de Tolosa became the first courthouse and jail in San Luis Obispo County, California. In 1872, during the 100th anniversary of the Mission, improvements began, but real restoration did not begin until 1933. The San Luís Obispo de Tolosa Mission is still the center of the busy downtown area. The Mission functions as a Roman Catholic parish church for the City of San Luis Obispo and although many changes have come to the Mission, it remains the center of town.















Historic designations

  • California Historic Landmark #325

See also

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