The Full Wiki

Francisco Palóu: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Francisco Palou (1723–1789) was a Franciscan missionary, administrator, and historian on the Baja California peninsula and in Alta California. Father Palou's contributions to the Californian and Mexican monastery movement are vast. Along with his mentor, Junipero Serra, Palou worked to build numerous missions throughout Mexico and California, many of which still exist today. A member of the Franciscan Order, Palou eventually became the superior or "Presidente" of the missions in Baja California, and then eventually of Upper California as well. Palou's accomplishments span from his early twenties to his death at the age of 66.

According to his biographer, Herbert E. Bolton "Fray Palou was a diligent student, devout Christian, loyal disciple, tireless traveler, zealous missionary, firm defender of the faith, resourceful pioneer, successful mission builder, able administrator, and fair minded historian of California." Palou is particularly noted for his pious biography of Serra and for his multi-volume early history of the Californias.



Francisco Palou was born in the small village of Petra, Majorca, Spain where he joined the Franciscan Order. Together with his mentor (Junípero Serra), he traveled to New Spain in 1740 and served as a missionary in the Sierra Gorda region of Querétaro. When the Jesuits were expelled from Baja California in 1768, the Franciscans under Serra were sent to replace them. Palou was assigned to the mission of San Javier. The following year, Serra went north to found the new mission province of Alta California, and Palou succeeded him as head of the Baja California missions. When the Dominicans took over the peninsular missions in 1773, Palou moved on to California, marking the geographical boundary between the two orders' fields. He assisted in the exploration of the site of San Francisco and administered Mission San Francisco de Asís. When Serra died, Palou was briefly head of the California missions, but soon returned to central Mexico.


Missionary travels

As a missionary, Palou traveled and proselytized throughout the new world. His extensive travels left him ably fit to wisely discuss and teach world matter, and made him highly respected as a scholar throughout the land. Coming from simple beginnings, Palou was born in 1722 at Palma, on the Island of Majorca, and began religious work early in his life as he entered the Franciscan Order around the age of seventeen in 1739. After developing a mentor/student relationship with a man named Junipero Serra, they both eagerly joined the American Indian missions. They, along with several other missionaries reached Vera Cruz, Mexico in 1749. Palou worked in Mexico for many in missions such as Sierra Gorda. He was later recalled, along with Serra, to work in the San Sabas region in Texas. However, the biggest part of Palou's journey would not begin until 1767 when he and fourteen other Franciscan friars were sent north to extend their efforts and replace many of the Jesuit missionaries who had been previously expelled form Spain. Much of Palou's life would be spent in California, and many of his notable endeavors would be achieved there as well. Undoubtedly, Palou would be a driving force in forming the religious communities of California.

California missions

Now working in California, Palou and the other friars reached Loreto in Lower California in the spring of 1768. Palou was given control of Mission San Francisco Javier. The following year, Junipero Serra left for Alta California to proceed with the further establishment of missions in that region. This left the office of "presidente" or superior of all missions in Lower California for Palou to control until 1773. When the lower Californian missions were turned over to the Dominican Fathers, Palou was able to rejoin his brethren and mentor in Upper California. He first went to San Diego, then continued onwards to Monterey-Carmel, which Serra had been using as his headquarters. Palou greatly assisted in the placement of friars as well as collected historical data, some of which is the only still surviving today on the early Californian missions.

Expeditionary travel

In 1774, Palou accompanied Captain Rivera's expedition to the Bay of San Francisco and on December 4th, planted the cross on Point Lobos, which sits in clear view of the Golden Gate and Pacific Ocean. He was the first priest to ever reach that point. He would return to Lobos in 1776 with Lieutenant Moraga and on June 28th would offer up his first mass on the spot later at the future site of Mission Dolores, which Palou founded but a few weeks later. Palou remained at the helm until he was called to give his mentor and close friend, Junípero Serra, his last rights in 1784 at the Mission San Carlos. With Serra's death in Carmel, Palou became the acting "presidente" of the Upper Californian missions. Palou remained in this post and served ably until failing health and the simple factor of age retired him in 1785 to the missionary College of San Fernando de Mexico. He was elected guardian of the college and his office here until his death in Mexico, where he had completed his life of Serra, most of which he had written while still in California.


Francisco Palou led a life of servitude and humbleness despite the many key roles and offices he held throughout his life. He was vital to the establishment of several of the first nine missions in California and many of those in Mexico. He compiled a standard history of the California missions from 1767 to 1784 in his "noticias" as a four-volume set. He also wrote of his teacher, Junípero Serra. Both works provide key information about early California and the missionary efforts that took place there.


  • Palou, Francisco. 1926. Historical Memoirs of New California. Edited by Herbert E. Bolton. 4 vols. University of California Press, Berkeley.
  • Palou, Francisco. 1955. Life of Fray Junipero Serra. Edited by Maynard J. Geiger. Academy of American Franciscan History, Washington, D.C.
  • Palou, Francisco. 1994. Cartas desde la península de California (1768-1773). Edited by José Luis Soto Pérez. Editorial Porrúa, Mexico City.
  • Palou, Francisco. Noticias de la Nueva California (Volume II). Translated by Miguel Venegas. California: University Microfilms Inc., 1966.


External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address