In 1892 Father J.J. O’Keefe, who had done excellent work at Santa Barbara, was sent to San Luis Rey to repair the church and make it suitable for a missionary college of the Franciscan Order. May 12, 1893, the rededication ceremonies of the restored building took place, the bishop of the diocese, the vicar-general of the Franciscan Order and other dignitaries being present and aiding in the solemnities. Three old Indian women were also there who heard the mass said at the original dedication of the church in 1802. Since that time Father O’Keefe has raised and expended thousands of dollars in repairing, always keeping in mind the original plans. He also rebuilt the monastery.
San Luis Rey is now a college for the training of missionaries for the field, and its work is in charge of Father Peter Wallischeck, who was for so many years identified with the College of the Franciscans at Santa Barbara.
Immediately on entering the church one observes doorways to the right and left—the one on the right bricked up. It is the door that used to lead to the stairway of the bell-tower. In 1913 the doorway was opened. The whole tower was found to be filled with adobe earth, why, no one really knows, though it is supposed it may have been to preserve the structure from falling in case of an earthquake.
A semicircular arch spans the whole church from side to side, about thirty feet, on which the original decorations still remain. These are in rude imitation of marble, as at Santa Barbara, in black and red, with bluish green lines. The wall colorings below are in imitation of black marble.
The choir gallery is over the main entrance, and there a great revolving music-stand is still in use, with several of the large and interesting illuminated manuscript singing-books of the early days. In Mission days it was generally the custom to have two chanters, who took care of the singing and the books. These, with all the other singers, stood around the revolving music-stand, on which the large manuscript chorals were placed.
The old Byzantine pulpit still occupies its original position at San Luis Rey, but the sounding-board is gone—no one knows whither. This is of a type commonly found in Continental churches, the corbel with its conical sides harmonizing with the ten panels and base-mouldings of the box proper. It is fastened to the pilaster which supports the arch above.
The original paint—a little of it—still remains. It appears to have been white on the panels, lined in red and blue.
The pulpit was entered from the side altar, through a doorway pierced through the wall. The steps leading up to it are of red burnt brick. Evidently it was a home product, and was possibly made by one of Padre Peyri’s Indian carpenters, who was rapidly nearing graduation into the ranks of the skilled cabinet-makers.