Home / Travel Guide for San Luis Obispo - CA / A Tour of Mission San Luis Obispo
4 September, 2014

A Tour of Mission San Luis Obispo

Posted in : Travel Guide for San Luis Obispo - CA on by : The Gourmez

I stayed over in San Luis Obispo for a day after the end of the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference—I needed the time just to decompress and organize my thoughts before heading all the way back home. And I apparently needed to take a tour of Mission San Luis Obispo for some inspiration.

Click twice for the panorama.

Click twice for the panorama.

I love discovering treasures in the everyday, and as someone who grew up on the Central Coast, I’d seen plenty of this mission. But I’d never gone inside, and as I walked by, I happened to notice a crowd gathering for the next free docent tour. Why not join, I thought. So I did.


The docent gave us a brief history of the mission’s timeline, starting with its founding in 1772 by Father Serra.

Statue of Father Serra outside the mission.

Statue of Father Serra outside the mission.

During the 1800s, the West became more of a lawless place, which is the very reason those doors have an extra couple of feet on top—to stop outlaws from riding in on horseback. Also interesting is that the mission was made over after being returned to the church’s care once California became a state. As was the fashion at the time, it was redone to resemble typical New England clapboard churches with a steeple and all. Thankfully, it was returned to its roots in the early 1900s.


Inside the building, I was fascinated by the colorful vines and birds on the walls.


Not your typical Catholic church décor. More typical, of course, was the altar, with a statue of Saint Luis Obispo de Tolosa, for whom the mission was named, off by the window.


I also loved the little Lamb of God tile near the top of the stairs.


Make sure you take a look at the portrait of Father Serra as well. There aren’t a lot of them around.


And I must share, I’m still laughing at the nun statue in this picture.


Why? Because it totally looks like she’s using a cell phone. Somehow I doubt that was the artist’s intent.

Plenty intrigued me inside the mission, but its outdoor garden proved the most awe-inspiring.


I caught my breath at that first sight. After the 30-minute tour concluded, we strolled the garden at our leisure, and I was quite happy to take it all in. A few of my favorite shots:



Fig trees are so appropriate for a church.

Fig trees are so appropriate for a church.



I should take a few minutes to wax poetic about the church’s bell-ringer history as well. The original bells are on display in the garden.


The two oldest ones arrived in 1820 from Peru, and since then, the mission has only had 5 primary bell-ringers—in nearly 200 hundred years! It’s a lifelong job, for sure.


There are also several museum exhibits that pack quite a lot of history into their small rooms. I was impressed by how in-depth the coverage was of the American Indians in the region before Father Serra founded the mission.

Reproductions of American Indian dolls.

Reproductions of American Indian dolls.

Stopping for the docent tour was a great choice for me and a great way to take my mind off wine, wine, wine. You should make it too, if you’re in the area with a bit of free time. Especially if you live in SLO and have never gotten around to exploring your hometown’s treasures. Who hasn’t been guilty of that?

For the full set of my pictures from Mission San Luis Obispo, click here.

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