Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

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Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was founded 1772 on the Central Coast of California on a site located halfway between Santa Barbara and Monterey. It was named after Saint Louis of Anjou, the bishop of Toulouse. The Mission church of San Luis Obispo is unusual in its design in that its combination of belfry and vestibule is found nowhere else among the California missions. The main nave is short and narrow (as is the case with other mission churches), but at San Luis Obispo there is a secondary nave of almost equal size situated to the right of the altar, making this the only "L"-shaped mission church among all of the California missions.



In the year 1772, Gaspar de Portolà discovered San Luis Obispo on a journey north to rediscover the Bay of Monterey [1]. It was in this year when San Luis Obispo received its nickname as the la Cañada de los Osos ("Valley of the Bears") by diarist, Padre Juan Crespi.[4] Briefly following the discovery of San Luis Obispo, the city was forgotten. In 1772, when food supplies started to dwindle, Father Junípero Serra remembered the "Valley of the Bears." He decided to send hunters on expeditions to kill the bears in order to feed the Spanish and the Neophytes (Indians that converted to Christianity) in the north. The huge success of the hunting expedition caused Father Junípero Serra to consider building a mission in fertile soil San Luis Obispo. Upon further investigation he was convinced that San Luis Obispo would be a perfect site for a mission based on its surplus of natural resources, good weather and the Chumash, a local friendly Indian tribe who could provide the labor for constructing the mission. The mission became the fifth in the mission chain constructed by Father Junípero Serra.[2]

Father Serra sent an expedition down south to San Luis Obispo to start building the mission. On September 1, 1772 a cross was erected near San Luis Obispo Creek and Father Junípero Serra celebrated the first mass, marking the site as the destination for yet another mission. However, briefly following the first mass, Father Junípero Serra returned to San Diego and left the responsibility of the mission's construction to Father Jose Cavaller. Father Cavaller, five soldiers and two neophytes began building what is now Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. Father Cavaller received help in the building of the Mission from the local friendly natives, the Chumash Indians. The Chumash helped construct palisades, which would serve as temporary buildings for the Mission. However due to several Indian tribes which were determined to get rid of European settlers, they set these buildings ablaze[3]. Because of this, Father Cavaller was forced to rebuild the buildings using adobe and tile structures.

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