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  • Writer's pictureBrenda Masse

San Antonio's Historic Missions

The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated San Antonio’s five Spanish Colonial Missions as a World Heritage Site in July 2015. As Texas’ only World Heritage designee, the Missions are one of only 23 other historic sites in the US to receive this honor and one of 1,007 places worldwide.

San Antonio Missions

The missions were established by Spanish Catholic religious orders as part of colonization north of Mexico and to spread Christianity to the local natives. There are five missions still in existence, four of which make up San Antonio Missions National Historical Park: Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan Capistrano and Mission Espada. The fifth, and most famous mission is the Alamo, which is located upstream of the other four and is the site of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836.

Interesting Notes About San Antonio Missions National Historical Park and The Alamo:

Mission Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion de Acuna

807 Mission Road

Concepcion was moved to its current site in San Antonio in 1731 from East Texas and has remained remarkably unchanged since that time. From the majestic cruciform structure to the original frescoes and notable interior architecture which achieves incredible acoustics, Mission Concepcion is a marvel of Spanish Colonial America. It was originally established by Franciscan monks and maintains an active congregation to this day.

Mission San Jose y San Miguel Aguayo

6519 San Jose Drive

San Jose was founded in 1720, but the limestone church structure wasn’t built until 1768. Known for its intricate stonework achieved by using wood carving tools, recent restoration work at the “Queen of Missions,” was completed using similar woodworking tools to replicate the process used by the original artisans.

Mission San Juan Capistrano

9101 Graf Road

Also originally established in East Texas, San Juan Capistrano was moved to its current location in 1731. Originally consisting of many structures, including living quarters, a church, a granary and workrooms, the current standing church includes parts from as many as five other previous buildings. San Juan Capistrano was known as a center of weaving and agriculture, a large and thriving community during Colonial times which continues to this day, where there is still an active community of Mission-era descendants.

Mission San Francisco de La Espada

10040 Espada Road

Mission Espada is the most complete complex of the existing missions. The

Espada Acequia, (a community aqueduct) has run continuously since at least

1745, surrounded by original mission farmlands. Rancho de las Cabras, 100

acres of Espada ranchlands have been preserved as well, along with the ruins of

the ranch house.

San Antonio de Valero “The Alamo”

300 Alamo Plaza

A rich cultural history of indigenous peoples, Spanish settlers, Mexican settlers,

the Republic of Texas and eventually the United States is preserved at the

Alamo, from evidence of what daily life was like in mission culture to dramatic

events like the Battle of the Alamo.

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