Known as King of the Missions, Mission San Luis Rey, in Oceanside, California, is one of the jewels of the 21 missions that comprise the California Mission System. Located on a hill above a busy main thoroughfare, this serene church is surrounded by lovely grounds peppered with amazingly incredible sculptures.
Some larger than life, the incredible sculptures of Mission San Luis Rey tell stories through their carved faces; emotions extracted through the sculptor’s talent and grace. My father was a sculptor and while religious sculpture was not his focus, I know for a fact he would have loved this body of work that lives on the grounds of this magnificent mission.
I don’t know the names of the incredible sculptures of Mission San Luis Rey, nor the sculptors’ names, so I’ve given them a name myself.
Jesus Carrying the Cross Sees Mary
Across an expanse of concrete, and directly in front of the chapel at Mission San Luis Rey, is a park-like setting with a fountain, picnic tables and this fabulous, life-size bronze sculpture of Jesus carrying the cross with Mary to his side. Actually larger than life, it beckons you to come closer.
Jesus sees Mary in the crowd and stops.
There are no fences around this sculpture and as you approach, you notice their outstretched hands…
only inches apart.
As you turn to look at Mary…
you are devastated by her grief.
When you look closely at Jesus, the sadness in his eyes tells his story.
In the private rose garden, enclosed by a metal fence, The Crucifix sculpture takes center stage.
The power, forcefulness and cruelty of the Roman soldier, as he lashes out with his whip, almost makes one gasp.
Jesus’ strength fading, you feel his determination as he calls out to his father for help.
A commanding sculpture, his haunting face is both evocative and eloquent.
Mary Welcomes All
Located in the cemetery surrounding the main church, Mary stands at the helm of a long water trough with fountains spurting up every few feet. Leaning forward, Mary welcome all.
A larger-than-life sculpture, on the day of this visit, someone had placed a flower in her hand.
This graceful sculpture emulates tranquility and an abiding sense of peace.
There are benches nearby that encourage you to sit, stay awhile and soak in the beauty of the cemetery and pay your respects to those who have passed on before us.
St. Francis of Assisi Sculptures
Scattered throughout the gardens are several sculptures of St. Francis of Assisi. The one below is small, about 3 feet, and looks to be made of concrete.
Gracefully holding a bird in his hands, with another on his shoulder, St. Francis’ serene face reminds us of the tranquility that nature brings to our lives.
This sculpture of St. Francis, also on the small side, shows a more playful man. Again holding a bird in the palm of his hand, with another on his shoulder, the expression on this sculpture’s face is one of happiness.
More somber but still peaceful, this sculpture of St. Francis implies motion – the motion of his hand, outstretched to meet a bird in flight.
This one is my favorite sculptures at Mission San Luis Rey – St. Francis sitting on a bench, his arm reached up in greeting. Lifesize, this sculpture welcomes you to sit beside him and enjoy the sunshine. A bunny at his feet and a bird on his shoulder, St. Francis’ face is glowing with joy and excitement – a reminder to us all that the simple things in life are the most important!
His beautiful, open, smiling face…
with a bird on his shoulder…
and a rabbit at his feet…
his hand raised in greeting.
So welcoming is this sculpture that real birds alight on his head!
This statue of Rachel actually has a commemorative plaque under her.
Located in a garden setting next to the parking lot, it is impossible to take a photo of the entire sculpture without getting cars in the background even though this sculpture is small (between 3 and 4 feet). In spite of that, she’s still a beautiful, glowing sculpture surrounded by flowers.
The plaque reads, “Rachel – weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted for them because they are gone. You are gone but not forgotten.”
You can easily take a close-up picture of her beautiful face without the interference of cars…
from both sides!
Hope you enjoyed my “tour” of the incredible sculptures of Mission San Luis Rey! More about the amazing Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is available on Toot Sweet 4 Two’s archives. Here are some links: