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249-Historic Missions of San Antonio

249-Historic Missions of San Antonio

  • 3250

This historical site encompasses a chain of five frontier Catholic missions, built by Franciscan missionaries along a 12.4 kilometer (7.7-mile) stretch of the San Antonio River in southern Texas in the early part of the 18th century. These missions tell a story of the Spanish colonial period in North America, and the efforts of the Spanish Crown to convert natives to Catholicism and protect and sustain New Spain’s northern frontier. The five missions are: San Jose, Espada, San Juan, Concepcion, and The Alamo/San Antonio de Valero. The San Antonio Missions also represent a blending of cultures-that of the Spanish and Coahuiltecan people, as evident in the decorative Catholic symbols and nature-inspired indigenous designs of the compounds. Today, Concepción, San Jose, San Juan and Espada still serve as active Catholic parish churches.

Mission Espada was originally founded as San Franciso de Los Tejas in 1690, but was later relocated to the San Antonio River region in 1731 and renamed San Francisco de La Espada. The missionaries not only pursued converting native mission Indians, but they also taught them certain trades, such as carpentry, masonry, and stonecutting.

Mission San Antonio de Valero, more commonly known as the Alamo, was established by father Antonio de San Buenaventura y Olivares on May 1, 1718. The most popular of the five missions, the Alamo served a number of functions throughout its time: hospital, quarters for Spanish and Mexican frontier troops, army supply depot, and housing for native Indians.  

In 1720, Fray Antonio Margil de Jesús founded Mission San Jose. Also referred to as the “Queen of the Missions,” it became a major social and cultural center. It is the largest of all the missions and is regarded as one of the most beautiful, as depicted in the distinctive architecture of its church and lush fields and pastures.

Mission San Juan had its origins in East Texas in 1716 as San José de los Nazonis, but was permanently relocated in 1731 on the banks of the San Antonio River. San Juan had fertile farmland and pasturelands, and by mid-1700s, the mission was an active supplier of agricultural produce, such as peaches, melons, pumpkins, grapes, peppers, and corn. It also supplied products such as wood, cloth, and leather goods that the mission’s Indian produced.

Originally established in 1716, and regarded as the oldest unrestored stone church in America and, Mission Concepción was relocated from East Texas in 1731. It is remembered as the Mission’s center of religious activity, which featured religious festivals and morality plays, and for its once colorful geometric designs.

All sizes are approximate. 

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