San Fernando

San Fernando Rey de España Key Facts

San Fernando Rey de España. was founded on September 8, 1797.  This mission is organized around a large quadrangle, with a simple adobe church located in one corner. A convento (the padre’s quarters and a guest house), branches off the quadrangle. The Convento has a stunning colonnade with 19 arches, bordering the full length of the building.

General Information

San Fernando Rey de España

Founded:
September 8, 1797
Also Called:
San Fernando Mission
Current Status:
Active Roman Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Summary:
San Fernando Rey de España. was founded on September 8, 1797.  This mission is organized around a large quadrangle, with a simple adobe church located in one corner. A convento (the padre’s quarters and a guest house), branches off the quadrangle. The Convento has a stunning colonnade with 19 arches, bordering the full length of the building.

Key Facts About This Mission

Named For

St. Ferdinand, King of Spain in the 13th century.

Founding Father President

Fr. Lasuen Fr. Fermín Francisco de Lasuėn

Founding Missionaries

Frs. Francisco Dumetz and Juan Lope Cortés

Indians Joining Mission

The Mission Indian neophytes of San Fernando were referred to as Fernandinos, after the mission. Though originally identified with the Tataviam and Gabrielino-Tongva, in the 20th-century mission Indian descendants of San Gabriel and San Fernando adopted the name Tongva. 

The Tongva were recognized as a distinct tribe by the State of California in 1994. They have sought Federal recognition for decades.

Mission Site

Established at the native site of Achooykomenga/Pasheeknga, in a spacious valley on the Spanish grazing concession of Rancho Los Encinos held by Don Francisco Reyes. 

Whereas the Spanish referred to the region as El Valle de Santa Catalina de Bononia de los Encinos, the Tataviam called the area Achois Comihabit.

 

Layout

San Fernando Traditional quadrangle. A large hospice called the Convento, or Long Building, built in 1822, branched off the quadrangle.

Water Source

Several springs provided abundant water and a vast irrigation system supplied the mission and its lands.

Population

By 1811 the mission population reached 1,081 and stayed over 1,000 for the next ten years. There was still 400 former neophytes resident at San Fernando in 1843.

Livestock

San Fernando Cattle Brand In its peak year, in 1819, San Fernando had 12,800 head of cattle, which were a major source of food and revenue. The mission also had a large number of sheep, (an average of 5,000 in its peak years). 

Agricultural Output

Over the years 1798 - 1832 San Fernando harvested over 156,000 bushels of wheat, barley, corn, beans, peas, garbanzos (chickpeas) and habas (broad beans). The last inventory recorded 32,000 grapevines and over 1,000 fruit trees.

Mission Church

San Fernando mission church from east garden The simple mission church is an exact replica of the 3rd church completed in 1806 and destroyed by an earthquake in 1971. 

Mission Bells

A bell hangs in the belfry of the church. Another bell, weighing 100 pounds and dated to 1796, bears inscriptions for both Mission San Fernando and a Russian Orthodox Church official of the island of Kodiak, Alaska. It is believed by some that the bell originated with Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov's 1806 Russian trading expedition to Alta California.

Mission Art

San Fernando Altar The elaborate altar, reredos, and pulpit are carved from walnut and date to 1687. They were originally installed in the chapel of St. Philip Neri at Ezcaray, Spain, and reassembled in part at San Fernando by California missions’ curator Sir Richard Joseph Men of the Diocese of Monterey. 

Significant Events

On March 8, 1842, Francisco López, a majordomo on one of the mission ranches, discovered gold particles clinging to the roots of wild onion bulbs in Placerita Canyon. The gold petered out in four years, but this was the earliest gold strike in California. For years thereafter, treasure seekers dug up the mission's adobe walls and floors to find the gold they mistakenly thought the padres had hidden. 

Andres Pico at San FernandoThe last Mexican governor of California, Pio de Jesus Pico, granted his brother Andres Pico a very-favorable nine-year lease on San Fernando Rey in 1845 and Andres Pico purchased the property in 1856. It was not returned to the Church until 1862.

Secularized

1834

Year Returned to Catholic Church

1861

Interesting Facts

The first marriage at San Fernando Rey took place in 1797. It was held in a little arbor on the property as the first church wasn't completed until 1799. 

Although the mission was secularized in 1834, Franciscans continued to minister at San Fernando until June 30, 1847, when Fr. Blas Ordaz, the last Franciscan and last resident priest left. Thereafter San Fernando was attended from Our Lady of the Angels church in Los Angeles

Restoration of the church was financed in part in 1916 by the sale of thousands of candles at $1.00 each.

Responsibility

Oblates of Mary Immaculate have been responsible for the mission since 1923.

Additional Information
  • Pauley, C. and K. (2005). San Fernando Rey De España: An Illustrated History. (A richly illustrated and informative history)
  • Weber, F.J. Memories of an Old Mission San Fernando Rey de España. (Available at the Mission Gift Shop)
  • Nunis, D.B. (1997). Mission San Fernando - Rey de España 1797 – 1997.
  • Engelhardt, Z. (1927). Mission San Fernando Rey: The Mission of the Valley. (The definitive early history of the mission)
     

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