San Antonio de Pala Asistencia

Picture taken 1:50pm 22 Jul 2002

San Antonio de Pala was a sub-mission of Mission San Luis Rey de Francia. It was established in 1816 by Padre Antonio Peyri and is the only surviving Asistencia in the mission system and the only mission-related structure still ministering to an Indian population. The Asistencia was named in honor of Saint Anthony of Padua, nicknamed the “Wonderworker of the world.” Pala continues to be an active Church. Only the Church and cemetery were open on the day I visited.

The bell tower is striking in that it is detached from the building; unusual in the mission system. It is modeled on a tower in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The two bells were cast in Mexico. The larger is dedicated to St. Francis, St. Luis the King, St. Clare, and St. Eulalia. The maker of the bell is named as Cervantes. The smaller bell is dedicated to Jesus and Mary. Step back from the tower and look carefully at the top of the tower. There you will see a small cactus plant growing by the base of the cross. It’s said that Padre Peyri, when the Asistencia was completed, climbed the tower and planted a cactus to symbolize Christ conquering the desert (both in California and the human heart and soul).
Cactus in bell tower
Picture taken 1:50pm
22 Jul 2002

Picture taken 1:50pm 22 Jul 2002

At the far right of the courtyard where the bell tower is you will find the El Camino Real bell for the Asistencia. The church and the rest of the Asistencia buildings are to the left of the bell tower. There is a courtyard in front of the church entrance.

Across the street from the Asistencia is a park.

Picture taken
22 Jul 2002
Inside the Church you will find the original floor and outstanding Indian art.
Church interior
Picture taken 2:00pm 22 Jul 2002
Picture taken 2:00pm 22 Jul 2002
Picture taken 2:00pm 22 Jul 2002
Baptismal font
Picture taken 2:00pm 22 Jul 2002
Picture taken 2:00pm 22 Jul 2002

The cemetery is behind the bell tower. It is the original cemetery for the Asistencia and contains the remains of hundreds of Indian converts and early California settlers. It is still in use as evidenced by some of the current dates on the headstones.

Picture taken 2:05pm 22 Jul 2002

Picture taken 2:05pm 22 Jul 2002
For an interesting view on cultural differences be certain to walk through the cemetery and out the back to the main church office. In front of the office you will find a statue of St. Anthony of Padua; but unlike many such statues you see at other churches and missions, this one depicts St. Anthony as a person of color. Faith transcends cultures.

Picture taken 2:10pm 22 Jul 2002


1810. The first recorded mention of Rancho de Pala appeared in Padre Antonio Peyri’s Mission San Luis Rey Mission annual report appeared. He recorded building a granary at that location. Six years later a chapel was built and…

18 June 1816. Padre Peyri dedicated the Pala Asistencia. It became prosperous and up to 1,300 converts were ministered to from dedication to the time the mission system went into decline.

1818. A town started to take shape around the Asistencia and after three years Padre Mariano Payeras noted that all that was lacking to make Pala a complete mission was a resident priest.

1827. The Asistencia was at a peak of prosperity. In a report José Maria Echeandía wrote that Mission San Luis Rey “has a station called San Antonio de Pala with a church, dwellings and granaries and with a few fields where wheat, corn, beans, garbanzos, and other leguminous plants are grown.”

Late 1830s. The Asistencia underwent secularization. This started a time of decline for the property

14 November 1845. Pala, along with Mission San Luis Rey, was sold to Jose A. Cot and Jose A. Pico. That sale was later nullified but it started a process of sales of various mission properties. Fortunately, Pala was located away from the main lines of travel at the time so the Indians were able to keep the chapel and some of the grounds in repair.

1899. An earthquake damaged the chapel. It was repaired by the Indians with the help of the Landmarks Club. Likewise, when a flood damaged the campanile, it was rebuilt by the Indians.

1902. The U.S. Government decided to remove Indians from the Warner’s Ranch area. Property near Pala was purchased and used for this move in the Spring of 1903.

1903. The Asistencia was returned to the Catholic Church through the Landmarks Club which has been able to purchase it from a private owner.

1954. Father Januarius Carillo started a restoration program where original bricks would be made and used to rebuild the original quadrangle. Cedar logs were brought from the Palomar Mountain for this reconstruction.

1959. The restoration of the original quadrangle was completed.

1992. The chapel underwent extensive restoration due to termite damage in the roof.


Along Pala Mission Road (just North of California 76) in Pala, 23 miles from Interstate 5 along California 76. If coming from Oceanside turn left from Highway 76 just at the Pala Casino and proceed through the town to the Asistencia.


The California landmark sign is not at the asistencia site but is, instead, on a marker along Highway 76 in a position in line with the asistencia were it along the highway.

Picture taken 2:20pm 22 Jul 2002

La Asistencia de Santonio de Pala

Notable for its bell tower or campanile the chapel was built by Father Peyri, 1816. Almost destroyed by earthquake and storm, but later restored. Indians are still at Pala.

Historical Landmark No. 243

Deparment of Public Works – Division of Highways


  • If planning to visit the Mission please contact them directly to get the latest information.
  • Phone: (760) 742-3317