Spanish colonial buildings which are exceptionally well-preserved, these five 18th-century Franciscan missions which are spread out across the city of San Antonio comprise a designated World Heritage site, and four of them are also included in the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Missions Valero (the Alamo), San José, San Francisco de la Espada, San Juan Capistrano, and Concepción are all two-three miles apart, from north to south, alongside the San Antonio River, all of which have free admission.
Things to Do
San Antonio Missions Tour: History Unfolding Before Your Eyes
Relocated From Their Original Establishments
Photo: San Francisco de la Espada via Facebook/Glenn E. Jones Photography
Constructed in efforts to convert Native American people to Catholicism, these Spanish missions were laid out as self-sustainable, multi-cultural compounds as well as churches. Originally designed to fortify Spain’s supremacy in the area, many of the city’s missions were originally established elsewhere and moved to South Texas for the abundance of water and fertile soils.
All Are Active Parishes With the Exception of The Alamo.
Photo: Mission San Juan Capistrano via Facebook/Andrew Kozeliski Photography
All of the missions now present in San Antonio are also active parishes, with the exception of the Alamo, of course, which is also its own non-profit entity. Your faith notwithstanding, Mission Concepción and Mission San José both hold a Mariachi Mass on Sundays that is worth the visit, and guests are welcomed to celebrate their anniversaries and birthdays with a bilingual service that features both a traditional church choir as well as a live mariachi band.
Some Have Salvaged Self-Sustaining Components.
Photo: Mission San José via Flickr/Katie Haugland Bowen
Some of the missions also have operable components that are valid contributors to their current sustainability. Restoration efforts were dedicated to the water-powered stone gristmill at Mission San José, capable of producing 600-800 pounds of flour per day, and the acequia dam-and-aqueduct irrigation system at Mission San Juan is now operable again flowing water to a Spanish Colonial Demonstration Farm. And last but not least, Rancho de las Cabras at Mission Espada has been recognized by UNESCO and offers tours by reservation, demonstrating where and how vaqueros raised cattle, goats, and sheep.
Present-Day Beauty And A Storied Past