San Antonio Missions

Article by Merrill Baum
Photography by George Hosek

The missions of San Antonio are a main factor in the history of Texas and the core of the development of the city of San Antonio. In 1983, the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park was established.

Responsible for the maintenance and running of the five missions, it is located at 2202 Roosevelt Avenue, (210) 534-8833. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed only for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Years Day. Admission is free and there is plenty of parking.

The Visitor’s Center is located next to the Mission San Jose. It has a gift shop, book store, and a small theater that shows a twenty minute film of the life in the mission. The park represents the authentic and historic architecture of the period set in beautiful landscaped grounds. The park also includes the historic Espada Dam and Aqueduct and the Rancho de las Carbras.

The first, most famous, and the icon of San Antonio is The Alamo. Mission San Antonio de Valero as it was originally named It is located in the heart of the downtown area across from the San Antonio Visitor Center. The first mission on the tour the newly renovated mission, it is the site of the famous battle.


Founded in 1817 it houses the Long Barracks Museum and Library, which contains relics and memorabilia of the fall of the Alamo. The chapel façade is one of the most photographed in the country.

The Mission Concepcion is located 807 Mission Road at Felisa Street. It was built in 1731 and looks almost exactly as it did when it was built. It was the center for religious festivals which was meant to replace the native cultural beliefs with those of the Church.

Still to be viewed are the wall hangings and ceiling paintings. The tour is set-up to lead the visitor through the mission and its grounds. Mission San Francisco de la Espada, was also built in 1731 and was originally located in East Texas and named San Francisco de los Tejas.

It is the most remote of the missions and though located in the Park, it has limited access. It maintains the best segment of the Espada Aqueduct, crop irrigation system built in the 1730’s. It also contains the Espada Dam, an excellent examples of the four Franciscan designed dams on the San Antonio river and is in use today.

Mission San Jose is located at 6701 San Jose Drive. It was the largest and the most known in the 1720s and was know as “The Queen of the Missions.”

Founded by Fray Antonio Margil de Jsu’s, it was know as the model of Texas missions. Original wall carvings and the “Rose Window” is one of the most noted pieces of Spanish Colonial ornamentation in the country.

It also shows the construction of the time with the stairway to the belfry and the choir loft. The construction was by hand with no nails or pegs. There is a granary with flying buttresses, and a gristmill.

Founded as San Francisco de los Tejas near present day Weches, Texas, this was the first mission in Texas. The mission transferred to the San Antonio River area and renamed Mission San Francisco de la Espada.

Touring the missions brings the history of Texas to all visitors. The struggles, way of life at the early development of the territory, and the multicultural flavor of the area provides an insight to a living archaeological adventure. It gives a sense of what it was like to live at the time.

Texas Parks & Wildlife, San Antonio Missions

The legacy and history of San Antonio and this region began with a simple ceremony when in 1718 Franciscans and Spanish representatives established the first mission. Within 13 years, five were located along the San Antonio River. The missions’ purpose? To acculturate and Christianize the native population and make them Spanish citizens...




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