San Antonio and the Mission Trail

by William Mclaughlin January. 03, 2014 3026 views

The day we hit the Mission Trail with our friend Lucinda, it began as a very cloudy day. The next day she was leaving town for Christmas with relatives…so, we pressed on hoping for the best.

The four missions we visited on this day are all south of San Antonio along the San Antonio River. Mission Concepcion had the largest church. Dedicated in 1755, this church is in the most original condition of the four. It's the only one that has never lost its roof or walls.

Inside of Mission Concepcion. Given the rough exterior, with its cracked stucco and aging surface, we thought the interior would be in a similar condition. Imagine our surprise when we walked inside and discovered that this place is still used by an active congregation! Each of these Franciscan Catholic mission churches is still active today with mass said every Sunday.

An original fresco dating from the mid-1700s.

Mission San Jose was the second stop on our tour. And look…the sky has turned from cloudy to blue!

Mission San Jose has been reconstructed close to its original size and configuration. This is what it would have looked like in the 1700s.

San Jose's mission church has been fully restored. There's still scaffolding on the back side, but it looks much like it would have when it was built in 1768.

A side view of the church.

The ornate back door of the church at San Jose. Unfortunately, neither of us got good shots of the front.

Inside the Mission San Jose church.

The third stop on our trail was Mission San Juan. It is smaller than Concepcion and San Jose but fascinating in its own way.

An illustration of how San Juan would have looked in the 1700s.

The 1756 Mission San Juan church has been recently whitewashed … the only one of the four that has been repainted. The stonework in the foreground is what's left of a larger, newer church that was begun in 1760 but was never completed.

Inside Mission San Juan church. We found a way to the balcony.

No, we didn't ring the bells, but it was a tempting idea! :)

Our last stop of the day was Mission Espada, which translates, “of the sword.” There doesn't seem to be a story available as to how it got its name, but it's certainly intriguing!

Mission Espada, completed in 1756, from the outside.

Mission Espada from the inside, decorated for Christmas.

On Christmas day, we walked around downtown San Antonio and of course began with a visit to The Alamo. It is closed one day a year…yes, Christmas Day, but we got to see it from the outside along with lots of other tourists.

We had planned on strolling around the downtown River Walk loop, but it was a bit too crowded to accommodate the two of us with cameras, plus Mandy in her stroller. We decided to walk around town instead, and crossed over the River Walk in several places. Here's a section where there were no people! This is what we expected to see on Christmas Day, but apparently it's a San Antonio tradition to go out with the whole family and kick around downtown!

More River Walk.

We enjoyed the old architecture. These windows are on the first bank building constructed in San Antonio.

This Romanesque-style building is the Bexar County courthouse. The original section was built in 1892, and boasts four additions, making it the largest county courthouse in Texas.

San Fernando Cathedral, 1738. The ashes of the defenders of the Alamo are purported to be in here. There is reason for skepticism…there are human ashes with uniform buttons, but the defenders (Travis, Bowie, Crockett, etc.) were known not to wear uniforms.

And finally the façade of the once famous Texas Theater. The façade is as you see it, but with a modern bank building behind the façade. At least San Antonio preservationists got to save a little of the beautiful old theater. The four pillars that flank the street are mosaics depicting the four missions we had seen a few days before. They're beautifully done, and we liked the continuity it gave our visit to this area.

We left San Antonio on December 28th and headed south. We'll be staying in a campground outside of McAllen, Texas, until the end of January. We plan on making a few excursions to see the local sights, but we also plan on hanging around the hot tub and working on a jigsaw puzzle, so don't get too excited if we don't put up another blog right away! :P

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