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Last Updated: Mar 4th, 2009 - 23:22:18

San Fernando Rey de Espana  


Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana
By Anne Brooksher
Mar 5, 2009, 18:39 PST



Father Fermin Lasuen founded the Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana on September 8th, 1797. It was the 17th of California's 21 missions, and it still is considered the largest adobe structure in California.

Father Lasuen named the mission for St. Ferdinand III, King of Spain. The original structure location was founded in order to provide a stopping ground between San Buenaventura and San Gabriel. Because of the desirable location of the San Fernando Valley, the mission actually sits closer to San Gabriel.

Photographed by H.F. Withey, April 22nd, 1934. MONASTERY SOUTH FRONT FROM SOUTH-EAST.


The mission church building itself is not large. Instead, Father Lasuen invested the mission's energies into the building of a convento (a housing structure for missionaries). The convento, usually attached to the church, in this case was set away from the chapel. The reason was simple: the convento was much too large to connect. It stands two stories high, 243 feet long, and 50 feet wide.

This convento was built to be so large because the Mission San Fernando was a main stopping ground for traveling missionaries. It served as a rest stop for tired travelers, a hotel, and an inn. With so many visitors, it was imperative for the mission to have a strong economy. Like most California missions, the Mission San Diego de Alcala supported itself and the Native inhabitants of the area by growing crops of wheat and corn. They also raised herds of horses and cattle, and cultivated grapes in a vineyard. San Fernands largest income came from raising cattle, and especially leather and tallow.

The mission's economic success would not have been possible without the support of the Indian community. In 1804, more than 1,000 neophytes (Christianized Indians) lived and worked at the mission. They worked leather, dipped candles, worked in the fields, and performed many other duties essential to the survival of the mission.

Today, more than 2,000 people are buried at the Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana. Most of these are Indians from the mission and surrounding areas. The work of these individuals is memorialized in the creation of the adobe convento.

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