California's eighteenth mission was founded on June 13, 1798 by Father Fermin Lasuen. Built on a good site, with lots of friendly Luiseno Indians living in the area, San Luis Rey soon became the most productive of all the California missions.
The mission reached its peak in 1831, shortly before Mexico withdrew it support and secularized the missions. San Luis Rey languished for almost 60 years after secularization, until Franciscan priests returned in 1892. The church was rededicated in 1893, and reconstruction started in 1895, making it one of the first missions to be reconstructed. Reconstruction continues today.
This very active church complex today includes the rebuilt mission church, a museum and the excavated laundry and sunken gardens, a unique sight among the California missions and well worth the trip to see it.