Luis Jayme

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Luis Jayme
Born(1740-10-18)October 18, 1740
DiedNovember 4, 1775(1775-11-04) (aged 35)
Resting placeMission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá
ReligionRoman Catholic

Luis Jayme O.F.M. (October 18, 1740 – November 4, 1775), born Melchor Jayme, was a Spanish-born Roman Catholic priest of the Franciscan Order. Born at the farm Son Baró in the village of Sant Joan, Majorca, his earliest schooling was acquired from the local parish priest. At the age of fifteen Melchor was enrolled at the convent school of San Bernardino, where Fray Junípero Serra had studied some years earlier.

Melchor Jayme was admitted to the Franciscan Order on September 27, 1760 in the Convento de Santa Maria de los Angeles de Jesus. Following a year of strict seclusion and rigorous discipline, Jayme solemnly promised to observe the rule of the Friars Minor for the rest of his earthly lifespan; he was known as Fray Luis from thereon. The friar conducted his theological studies at the Convento de San Francisco (Palma de Mallorca), and was ordained to the priesthood on December 22, 1764. Fray Luis was appointed "Lector of Philosophy" upon completion of his coursework, a position he occupied at San Francisco from 1765 to 1770. Jayme arrived in New Spain in early 1770 after a long and arduous trans-Atlantic voyage. There he began the special training course at the missionary College of San Fernando de Mexico wherein "soldiers of the Cross" were conditioned to the privation, fatigue, mortification and penance encountered on the missionary frontier. Fray Luis set out for California along with nine other priests to begin a ten-year commitment ministering to the indigenous population.

An illustration depicts the killing of Father Luis Jayme by Kumeyaay warriors at Mission San Diego de Alcalá, November 4, 1775.[1]

Jayme was assigned to Mission San Diego de Alcalá, where his earliest efforts were devoted to mastering the complexities of the local Kumeyaay language. Once he had gained a facility with its vocabulary, he was able to compile a polyglot Christian catechism. The lack of a dependable water supply, coupled with the proximity of the military personnel at the Presidio, led to the priest asking for and being granted permission to relocate the mission from its original site, atop Presidio Hill, to the valley several miles east, where it is now situated. Almost immediately there was a noticeable increase in the number of conversions which, by 1775, stood at 431. Some of the local Kumeyaay people resented the Spanish intrusion into their land.[2] At approximately 1:30 a.m., on the moonlit morning of November 4, 1775, more than 600 warriors from the surrounding rancherías silently crept into the mission compound. After plundering the chapel, they set the other buildings ablaze. The commotion soon awakened the two missionaries, the Spanish guards, and the Christian neophytes. Rather than run to the stock hold for shelter, Fray Luis walked toward the band of warriors, uttering the traditional Franciscan greeting: "Amar a Dios, hijos!"—"Love God, my children!" [3] The Kumeyaay seized him, stripped off his garments, shot some eighteen arrows into his torso, then smashed his face with clubs and stones.

Jayme's body was, at first, interred in the Presidio chapel. When the new church at the mission was completed, the body was reinterred in the sanctuary. There it rested until November 12, 1813 when it was transferred once more. Today, the remains of Fray Luis Jayme lie in a common vault between the main and side altar. He is considered to be the first Catholic martyr in Alta California.[4]


  1. ^ Engelhardt, p. 63
  2. ^ Young, p. 12
  3. ^ Engelhardt, p. 64
  4. ^ Leffingwell, pp. 19, 132


  • Engelhardt, Zephyrin, O.F.M. (1920). San Diego Mission. James H. Barry Company, San Francisco, CA.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Leffingwell, Randy (2005). California Missions and Presidios: The History & Beauty of the Spanish Missions. Voyageur Press, Inc., Stillwater, MN. ISBN 0-89658-492-5.
  • Weber, Msgr. Francis J. (1976). "The Death of Fray Luís Jayme Two Hundredth Anniversary." The Journal of San Diego History 22 (1).
  • Young, Stanley & Melba Levick (1988). The Missions of California. Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco, CA. ISBN 0-8118-3694-0.

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