The San Luis Rey Mission was founded in 1798, the eighteenth of twenty one Spanish missions built in Alta California. The current church is the third one built on site, constructed in 1815. The mission was nearly destroyed after changing hands over the course of forty years, from Spain to Mexico to Luiseño Native Americans to the United States military to the church. Even after Abraham Lincoln signed a document in 1865 (one month before his assassination) which gave the mission back to the Catholic Church, it sat abandoned until 1892. It almost took a century for friars to restore the mission to what it is today.
The San Luis Rey Mission is a National Historic Landmark, and an Oceanside icon.
We have known of Walt Disney’s ties to the San Luis Rey Mission. He filmed Zorro here in 1957, his scull and cross bones addition to the mission is still displayed at the entrance to the cemetery. I thought this is where Walt Disney’s history ended until visiting the mission museum. This is the first time we have visited the actual museum, a self-guided tour which takes you through the history of the “King of the Missions”. Two things surprised us: not only are the church doors that Walt Disney had carved for his Zorro movie on display, so is the original San Luis Rey document signed by Abraham Lincoln, reinstating the church as the owners of the mission.
Lastly, something old, something new. There is a new coffee shop at the mission. You can drink tea and eat a fresh baked cookie while overlooking the private mission gardens, which include California’s oldest pepper tree.
This is life in Oceanside.