Missions National Park

Most people forget that the Alamo was just a humble mission in the beginning and while it was the first in San Antonio proper, already 100 years old when the battle took place, it is by far not the oldest or most grand of the many missions that are situated along the San Antonio River. The most beautiful missions that are still standing include The Mission Conception.

This stone church opened in 1755, is one of the oldest stone churches in the United States that has not been restored. If you were to stand on the site two-hundred years ago, it would look very much the same as it appears today however during its busiest period colorful designs covered its façade. These decorations have long ago faded, but inside, frescos painted by the original inhabitants are still visible in several of the rooms. Mission San Francisco de la Espada, founded in 1690, is the first mission in Texas. The Franciscan missionaries that lived here in order to help the native peoples become Spanish citizens, taught vocational skills such as weaving, blacksmithing, carpentry and masonry.

These skills became invaluable during the building of San Antonio. Mission San Jose, still an active parish today which holds weekly mass, is known as the “Queen of the Missions”. Largest of the missions, it was nearly fully restored in the 1930 by President Roosevelt’s WPA. Mission San Juan Capistradio, originally founded in 1716 over the course of forty years became a self-sustaining community. Native artisans within the walls produced everything needed including tools, cloth and leather. Gardens outside the walls and beyond provided the inhabitants and the surrounding communities with a supply of fresh produce, while pastures as far away as twenty miles provided land to raise sheep and cattle. Spanish missions, as demonstrated by the ones listed here, were more than churches, they were communities, whose focus was the church.