Picturesque Pala / The Story of the Mission Chapel of San Antonio de Padua Connected with Mission San Luis Rey


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Photograph of Author

Rev. G. D. Doyle

Picturesque Pala

The Story of the
Mission Chapel
San Antonio de Padua
Connected with
Mission San Luis Rey

Fully Illustrated

Author of
In and Out of the Old Missions of California; The Franciscan
Missions of California; Indian Basketry; Indian
Blankets and Their Makers; The
Indian’s Secret of Health;
Etc., Etc.


Pasadena, California

List of Chapters

I.San Luis Rey Mission and Its Founder7
II.The Founding of Pala14
III.Who Were the Ancestors of the Palas18
IV.The Pala Campanile23
V.The Decline of San Luis Rey and Pala31
VI.The Author of Ramona at Pala34
VII.Further Desolation37
VIII.The Restoration of the Pala Chapel41
IX.The Palatingua Exiles44
X.The Old and New Acqueducts55
XI.The Palas As Farmers60
XII.With the Pala Basket Makers63
XIII.Lace and Pottery Makers68
XIV.The Religious and Social Life of the Palas72
XV.The Collapse and Rebuilding of The Campanile81

Copyright, 1916


There were twenty-one Missions established by the Franciscan Fathers in California, during the Spanish rule. In connection with these Missions, certain Asistencias, or chapels, were also founded.

The difference between a mission and a chapel is oftentimes not understood, even by writers well informed upon other subjects. A Mission was what might be termed the parent church, while the Chapel was an auxiliary or branch establishment.

The little mission chapel, or asistencia, of San Antonio de Padua de Pala, has been an increasing object of interest ever since the Palatingua, or Warner’s Ranch, Indians, came and settled here, when they were removed from their time-immemorial home, by order of the Supreme Court of California, affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States. A century ago the beautiful and picturesque Pala Valley was inhabited by Indians. To give them the privileges of the Catholic Church and of the arts and crafts of civilization, the padres of San Luis Rey Mission, twenty miles to the west, established this asistencia, and caused the little chapel to be built. The quaint and individualistic bell-tower always was an object of interest to Californians and tourists alike, and thousands visited it. But additional interest was aroused and keenly directed towards Pala, when it was known that the severe storm of January, 1916, which caused considerable damage throughout the whole state—had undermined the Pala Campanile and it had tumbled over, breaking into fragments, but, fortunately, doing no injury to the bells.

With characteristic energy and determination Father George D. Doyle, the pastor, set to work to clear away the ruins, secure the bells from possible injury, and interest the friends of the Chapel to secure funds enough for its re-erection. Citizens of Los Angeles, Pasadena, San Diego, etc., readily and cheerfully responded. The tower was rebuilt, in exactly the same location, and as absolutely a replica of the original as was possible, except that the base was made of reinforced and solid concrete, covered with adobe, and the well-remembered cobble-stones of the original tower-base, with the original building materials, bells, timbers, and rawhide. Even the cactus was replaced. So perfectly was this rebuilding done that I question whether Padre Peyri, its original builder, would realize that it was not his own tower.

Sunday, June 4, 1916, was selected for the dedication ceremony of the new Campanile, and to give friends of the mission chapel a reasonably full and accurate account of its appearance and history this brochure has been prepared, with the full approbation and assistance of Father Doyle, to whom my sincere thanks are hereby earnestly tendered for his cordial co-operation.

George Wharton James.

Pasadena, California,
May, 1916.

Padre Antonio Peyri, Founder of San Luis Rey and Pala

Picturesque Pala

San Luis Rey Mission and its Founder.

What a wonderful movement was that wave of religious zeal, of proselyting fervor, that accompanied the great colonizing efforts of Spain in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Conquistadores and friars—one as earnest as the other—swept over the New World. Cortés was no more bent upon his conquests than Ugarte, Kino and Escalante were upon theirs; Coronado had his counterpart in Marcos de Nizza, and Cabrillo in Junipero Serra. The one class sought material conquest, the other spiritual; the one, to amass countries for their sovereign, fame and power for themselves, wealth for their followers; the other, to amass souls, to gain virtue in the sight of God, to build churches and crowd them with aborigines they had “caught in the gospel net.” Both were full of indomitable energy and unquenchable zeal, and few epochs in history stand out more wonderfully than this for their great achievements in their respective domains.

Mexico and practically the whole of North and South America were brought under Spanish rule, and the various Catholic orders—Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites—dotted the countries over with churches, monasteries and convents that are today the marvel and joy of the architect, antiquarian and historian.

Alta California felt the power of these movements in three distinct waves. The two first were somewhat feeble,—the discovery by Cabrillo, and rediscovery sixty years later by Vizcaino,—the third powerful and convincing. During this epoch was started and carried on the colonization of California by the bringing in of families from Mexico, and its Christianization by the baptizing of the aborigines of the new land into the Church, the making of them real or nominal Christians, and the teaching of them the arts and crafts of civilization.

Twenty-one missions were established, reaching from San Diego on the south, to Sonoma on the north, and great mission churches and establishments rose up in the land, of which the padres, in the main, were the architects and the Indians the builders.

Second in this chain—the next mission establishment north of the parent mission of San Diego—was San Luis Rey, dedicated to St. Louis IX, the king of France, who reigned from 1226 to 1270, renowned for his piety at home and abroad, and who was especially active in the Crusades. He was canonized by Pope Boniface VIII, in 1297, in the reign of his grandson, Phillip the Fair, and his day is observed on the 25th of August.

The Mission of San Luis Rey was the eighteenth to be founded and Junipero Serra, the venerable leader of the zealous band of Franciscans, had passed to his reward fourteen years before, his mantle descending in turn to Francisco Palou, and then to Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, under whose regime as Padre Presidente it was established. The friar put in charge of the work was one of the most energetic, capable, competent and lovable geniuses the remarkable system of the Franciscan Order ever produced in California. He was zealous but practical, dominating but kindly, a wonderful organizer yet great in attending to detail, gifted with tremendous energy, a master as an architect, and withal so lovable in his nature as to win all with whom he came in contact, Indians as well as Spaniards and Mexicans. The Mission was founded on the 13th of June, 1798, and yet so willingly did the Indians work for him, that on the 18th of July six thousand adobes were already made for the new church. It was completed in 1802. For over a century it has stood, the wonder, amazement and delight of all who have seen it.

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