Thursday, April 30, 2015

San Antonio Missions

While in San Antonio Texas we made sure to visit the missions that were so important in the development of the city itself and southern Texas by allowing the native population to be colonized.

In the early 1700's the missions were the only true defense against attacking Apaches, sickness, and drought.   All the native Indians had to do is agree to become citizens of Spain, support the king, and accept the Catholic beliefs as their religion.

Spain wanted to keep a foothold in the area especially with the French encroachments from Louisiana and missions were a way of doing that.  They were the most successful between 1745 and 1780 until increased Indian attacks, lack of sufficient military support, and disease caused their later decline.

The first mission on the San Antonio River was the Mission San Antonio de Valero or the Alamo as we know it today.  It is not part of the National Park's San Antonio Missions since it is owned by the state of Texas and managed by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.
Tia, Courtney, Ethan, Misty, Avery, Don, Chloe, and Ian in front of the Alamo.
The next mission on the San Antonio river is the Mission Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion.  It is considered the oldest unrestored stone church in America.

Avery, Ethan, Ian, Courtney, Tia, and Chloe at Mission Concepcion.
Mission Concepcion.
The sanctuary for Mission Concepcion.
One of the surviving interior wall paintings.
Another wall painting.
Mission Concepcion also had its own rock quarry which provided stones for its buildings and for portions of Mission San Jose.
Stone quarry for Mission Concepcion and portions of Mission San Jose.

The next mission on the river is the best known of the Texas missions, San Jose y San Miguel del Aguayo  or San Jose for short.  

Not only was it the biggest of all the San Antonio Missions, but was also considered to be a "model mission organization".  It was a major social center, had a unique church architecture, and had prospering fields and pastures.  This is why it was nicknamed, "Queen of the Missions."
Mission San Jose, the "Queen of the Missions."
Mission San Jose.
The below Rosa's Window or Rose Window shows off the Spanish artisans' high level of skill when it came to fine details in their building techniques.
Another view of Mission San Jose to include the Rose Window located in the middle.
Ethan, Chloe, Avery, Courtney, Ian, and Tia in front of the Rose Window.
Mission San Jose's sanctuary.

The grist mill, that was built late in the mission period, never did grind corn, but only wheat since the mission Indians had grown so accustomed to foods made from wheat and not corn.
Grist mill at Mission San Jose.
Back side entrance to the grist mill at Mission San Jose.
San Jose also had a much larger wall which included bastions with firing ports to let it be easily defended.  This gave the defenders of the mission a better perspective when firing at any attackers.
The kids looking into a firing port at one of the bastions at Mission San Jose.
Looking out one of the firing ports on a bastion at Mission San Jose.
The next mission south on the river is Mission San Juan Capistrano which was originally named San Jose de los Nazonis when in East Texas, but was renamed when moved to the San Antonio River in 1731.
Ian, Avery, Ethan, Courtney, Chloe, and Tia at Mission San Juan.
Mission San Juan.
The sanctuary at Mission San Juan.

All of the missions, except for the Alamo, still hold Catholic services on Saturday and Sundays.  At Mission San Juan the priest still lives in one of the original buildings on the mission grounds.
Private residence for the priest at Mission San Juan.
Some of the remaining walls still standing at Mission San Juan.
Once of the entry ways into Mission San Juan.
The best attraction, according to the kids, at Mission San Juan was the cat sunning on a window ledge.  You can see Ethan's concern when the cat arched its back to stretch.  He is such a silly boy!
The kids favorite attraction at Mission San Juan.
The last of the San Antonio Missions is also the oldest one which was founded in 1690 in East Texas and then moved on to the San Antonio River in 1731.

It was originally named San Francisco de los Tejas but renamed San Francisco de la Espada.
Courtney, Ethan, Avery, Ian, Chloe, and Tia at Mission Espada.
While we were visiting this mission the kids completed their Junior Park Ranger books and earned their badges which we will use as a good example of something learned of our field trips while homeschooling.
Chloe, Tia, Courtney, Ethan, Avery, and Ian taking the Junior Park Ranger pledge.
And to the victors go the spoils or at least the Junior Park Ranger badge.
After all of that excitement we toured the mission and then walked the Riverwalk from it to Mission San Juan which is a good three miles up river.
Church at Mission Espada.
Church sanctuary at Mission Espada.
Some of the fortifications on the back side of Mission Espada.
After we explored the mission then we set out to walk to the Espada Aqueduct which is two centuries old and still works to provide water to the acequia madre (mother ditch) that farms still use to this day.  It is considered the oldest Spanish aqueduct in the United States.
Arches for the two centuries old Espada Aqueduct.
Water being held in the aqueduct.
Another view of the still working aqueduct for Mission Espada.
Even though the next picture is in the fields of Mission San Juan, you can see how an aqueduct directs water to the crops.
Gates to control the water flow to the fields.

The water outlet to one of the fields at Mission San Juan.
After looking at the aqueducts we finished our walk back up to Mission San Juan and back around to Mission Espada.  Needless to say we were a little tired and sore after walking the six plus miles.

We had a backpack with water, apples, oranges, trail mix, and Peeps left over from Easter.  We decided that we would save the Peeps for the last treat once we were about a mile out in our journey to give the kids that little extra jolt of energy to finish the hike.  We did not want to give it to them too early just to have them burn out with some distance still to walk.
The Riverwalk next to Mission Espada.
Walking on the Riverwalk on the east side of the San Antonio River.
Misty, Chloe, and Don on the Riverwalk between Mission Espada and Mission San Juan. 

A view of the San Antonio River near Mission Espada from the Riverwalk.
Another part of the Riverwalk near Mission Espada.
The kids getting some water at one of the many water fountains on this portion of the Riverwalk.
The path off of the Riverwalk to the Espada Aqueduct.
Some old mill ruins on the Riverwalk from a long lost community.
I wish I could post all of the pictures we took while touring the Missions of San Antonio and strolling along the Riverwalk, but time just does not permit it.

If you are ever in San Antonio, Texas, you have to visit the mission trail and see them all for yourself.  It is well worth the trip!

If you like our blog then please comment below and sign up to follow us.  You can also become our friends on Facebook using the links on the upper right of this blog.

We hope you enjoyed our little view of our mission tours and do hope you make it here one day to do the same.

Once again we are so blessed by God that we can see such wonderful sights as we travel across America.

God bless and Thanks!

Don, Misty, and Kids...

States we have visited so far.


  1. We have been to San Antonio so many times, yet we've never done the Missions tour. We will be in San Antonio this fall and, after reading your post and seeing your photos, I will make sure to put the tour on our list of things to do.

    1. Crissa,

      You will not be sorry. All of the missions have a great story to tell and are a wonderful to spend time at. If you drive you can hit up all of them in one day, but we spread it out over a few weeks.

      We are happy you enjoyed the blog.

      Don, Misty, and Kids...

  2. We were in San Antonio in 2013 and visited the Missions and you have beautifully captured its essence. It makes me happy every time I see kids participating in Junior Ranger Programs.

    1. We always have the kids do the Junior Ranger Program to supplement their homeschooling. It is also a great way to learn all about whichever National Park we are visiting to include Misty and I.

      They just finished the one for White Sands National Monument and got both their badges and a patch.

      We will probably winter again in San Antonio this winter, so will go see the missions again to kill time.

      Safe travels and God bless!