San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

San Luis Obispo de Tolosa
5th of the California Missions
Founded: September 1, 1772
Special Designation:
Named For: St. Louis, Bishop of Toulouse, France, a 14th century Franciscan
Also Called: Mission San Luis Obispo
Founding Father President: Fr. José Cavaller
Founding Missionaries:
Prominent Missionary Leaders: Fr. Luis Antonio Martínez, a jovial and generous man and effective manager, led the mission for thirty-four years.
Indians Joining This Mission: San Luis Obīspo was the first mission founded in the land of the Chumash people. The neophytes at the mission were called Obispeño.
Mission Site: Located in a spacious valley along the central coast which the Spanish named "La Cañada de los Osos" (Valley of the Bears) when they discovered many grizzlies there. Unlike many of the missions which we re-situated over time, San Luis Obīspo stands on its original site.
Layout: Traditional quadrangle
Water Source: San Luis Obispo Creek which was described as "having the finest water."
Population: Highest recorded population was 832 in 1804
Livestock: San Luis Obispo had a relatively stable livestock herd during its last twenty years as a mission, with twice as many sheep as cattle in most years. 1832, the last year for which we have detailed records, the mission had 2,500 cattle and 5,422 sheep.
Agricultural Output: Over the years 1804 - 1832 San Luis Obispo produced 167,000 bushels of wheat, barley, corn, beans, peas and lentils. Despite its relatively small population, it had the fourth highest production of wheat in the entire chain. The mission even had its own grist mill. San Luis Obispo had grape arbors within the mission quadrangle and there was a garden in the northeast corner.
Mission Church: The San Luis Obīspo church was built in 1792-94. The prominent numbers inscribed on the church facade refer to the year the mission was founded in 1772. The vestibule was added in 1820. The former convento (which now contains a museum and gift shop) has a distinctive front colonnade of eleven round columns set on square pedestals.
Mission Bells: There are three bells suspended in the church facade.
Mission Art: The most significant devotional art is in an alcove on the right hand side of the church, where an illuminated painting of Our Lady of Refuge may be seen. The alcove was once the entrance to the funerary chapel, which led out onto the mission cemetery.
Special Attraction: The mission has an excellent museum with a special room that focuses on the Chumash Indians. The adjacent plaza is a popular site for community events. A stream runs through the area.
Significant Event(s): In 1776 a pagan Indian fired an arrow, with a burning wick attached, into one of the dry thatched roofs of San Luis Obispo, starting a fire that nearly destroyed several buildings. This disaster led to experimentation to make tile locally. By 1790 most of the missions had tile roofs that were not as vulnerable to attack.
Secularized: 1835
Year Returned to Catholic Church: 1859
Current Status: Central parish church for city of San Luis Obispo.
Interesting Facts: 

The mission had an active life of sixty-three years.

A statue of a grizzly bear in the plaza celebrates the original discovery "La Cañada de los Osos" (Valley of the Bears) by the Portola expedition as they returned to San Diego from a failed attempt to find Monterey in December, 1769.

A long secondary nave to the right of the altar forms an L-shaped church plan, the only oneof its kind in the California missions.

The combination vestibule and belfry at the front facade of the mission, while somewhat similar to that in San Antonio de Padua, is unique among the California missions.