The Missions: No. 17

Number 17 of the 21 missions, San Fernando Rey de España, was established September 8, 1797, by Father Fermin Lasuen—as the  4th mission he had founded that same summer—and  Father Francisco Dumetz. They named it for St. Ferdinand III, King of Leon and Castile, who was credited with freeing Spain from Moorish rule.  The mission is located back from the coast, about 22 miles east of modern Los Angeles. On the first day ten Indian children were baptized, and within two months the first small chapel was raised. Right away, the padres established a training school that taught farming, the care of livestock, and the mechanical arts to the local natives of various tribes. In time, the initially reluctant Indians became skilled at leatherwork, blacksmithing, and tool making. The mission prospered, and a year after its founding a larger church had to be built to accommodate a growing population. In 1806, a third church was dedicated and completed. At its peak in 1819, San Fernando had over 30,000 grapevines and a winery.  It also enjoyed a large trade in hides and tallow, and entertained so many visitors that a large table was built into the ceiling of the padres’ quarters and lowered for meals. The mission was secularized in 1834. In 1846, California’s last Mexican governor Pio Pico used it for his headquarters before selling most of the buildings to the pueblo of Los Angeles.  After this the mission, already deteriorating, fell further into ruin. Later, the Butterfield Stage Lines used the mission as a station. The arrival of the Oblate priests in 1923 turned the facility into a working church once again. The Landmarks Club restored the roof in 1916, although major restoration did not move forward until the 1940s, when the Hearst Foundation gifted substantial funds. With its proximity to Hollywood, Mission San Fernando has often been used as a motion picture set.


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