By George Christopher Thomas, Travel Writer
One of the best things about Los Angeles is all the things to do. From going to Universal Studios to looking at the stars on Hollywood Blvd., to visiting the San Fernando Mission, there is something happening. Just the other day, I took a few hours off at the end of the workday, and darted off to the San Fernando Mission. Anyone who grew up in Southern California probably had to do a report on a mission of their choice. I think the mission history is assigned in the 4th grade. I picked the Santa Barbara mission, but have always been fascinated with the other missions as well.
The San Fernando Mission is beautiful, a great place for a picnic or a nice stroll to gather your thoughts. The gift shop is one of the best mission gift shops I have ever visited. Lots of good stuff, very Catholic and lots of books and reference information.
Each mission has a different history, from when they were built, to what has happened to them over the past few hundred years. In some cases, the missions were under private ownership, and had less than religious activities taking place there. In fact, the San Fernando Mission once acted as a barn for farm animals. In 1888, the mission property was used as a warehouse and stable, and later the grounds and patio became a hog farm. It was not until 1896 when Charles Fletcher Lummis, a prominent member of the Landmarks Club, began a campaign to reclaim the mission property that the fortunes of San Fernando improved But it has since been restored.
After walking through the gift shop, it was time to check out the mission. The Courtyard is huge, with a beautiful fountain right in the middle. The Friars quarters were humble but adequate, considering the time. There is lots of history on Spanish relations with the Native Americans. Just learning about the culture is fascinating, and makes you want to go home and make adobe huts and clay pots. I guess they don’t get a lot of visitors in the middle of the day in the middle of the week, because I had the mission to myself. After walking through the Courtyard and checking out the Friars quarters, it was time to go to Church. Now each mission has its own flavour, and the San Fernando Mission is no exception.
Mission San Fernando Rey de España was founded on the 8th of September 1797 by Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuén. The mission is named for St.. Ferdinand, King of Spain (1217-1252). A variety of problems, including the 1812 earthquakes and the digging up of the church floor by gold prospectors when gold was discovered nearby caused much of the mission to fall into disrepair. Some restored structures include the church, monastery and some quarters around the quadrangle. The church is active.
Inside the Church it is a bit Gothic and European looking. Some have suggested it is the worst looking Church of all the missions. I don’t know about that, but it is definitely unique and different. I liked it, no other mission is even close. The rest of the place looks like every other mission, but you enter the church, and you know it is wholly and Holy all its own. The mission farms produced olives, dates, wheat, barley, corn, and other foods. It had 7000 sheep and many other livestock.
So I say make your way to the San Fernando Mission, it is a great place to visit for a few hours, and it is here in LA. Stay and play in LA. Just take the 405 North and get off on San Fernando Mission Road,
Turn right and you are on your way. It would be a good surprise picnic date, and is really serene. Being here in Los Angeles, you should embrace the history and the culture of our beautiful city.
Across from San Fernando is a beautiful and spacious park which adds immeasurably to the mission’s importance as an historical landmark. Featured in the park are the old soap works, the original fountain now some 30 feet distant from its first location and a large, oddly shaped reservoir from which the mission fathers were supplied with water. Dominating the entrance to the park is the figure of Father Junípero Serra.