The San Antonio Mission Trail: Remnants of the Spanish Empire in Texas
Texas holds several surprises for visitors, including the San Antonio Missions, established by Spanish missionaries in the early 1700s. These missions strove to defend against the French invasion of Texas, then part of the Spanish Empire, as well as to convert the indigenous people to Catholicism.
Now UNESCO World Heritage Sites, these missions dot the shore of the San Antonio River and have connections via roads and bike trails. To explore the missions to the fullest, stay in a San Antonio hotel and then find a cozy place to eat or drink along the River Walk in the evening.
Mission San Antonio de Valero
Founded in 1718, this is the most famous mission of all. It’s the site of the Battle of the Alamo, a pivotal event in the Texan fight for independence from Mexico in 1836. The center of the compound includes Alamo Plaza, the heart of the Historic District of San Antonio.
After the Franciscan priests left in 1793, the mission became a military barracks. The soldiers brought their families, who settled in the area. Little by little, the town of San Antonio started to grow around the Alamo.
Mission San José
San José is San Antonio’s largest mission and has a defensive wall built to defend the compound from Comanche and Apache attacks. This mission has indigenous quarters, soldiers’ quarters, a convent, workshops, a grist mill, and an imposing stone church. The indigenous quarters have been reconstructed, but the convent is mostly original, as are the church’s façade and rose window.
The beautiful Mission Concepción looks virtually unchanged. Its twin towers stand out among the surrounding greenery, as does its vaulted roof. Frescoes that blend Christian, Spanish, and Native American motifs decorate the spacious church, some having survived to this day.
Espada’s acequia, or irrigation canal, has been in use since 1745. Water flows from the Espada Dam, located 2.1 miles north of the mission. San Francisco de la Espada is the local parish church and the convent houses Franciscan brothers and priests who serve the local community.
Mission San Juan
When it was relocated from East Texas in 1731, San Juan included a church, a perimeter wall, indigenous quarters, a granary, a convent, and workshops. The only components left today are the ruins of the second church, the standing church, and the walls and the foundations of the convent and granary. This mission also includes a secular residence built in the 1820s.
The San Antonio Missions visitor center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. San José and Concepción are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, whereas San Juan and Espada are open from 10 a.m. to 5 pm daily. All close on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. The Alamo is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, and it stays open until 7 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Use the National Park Service’s handy San Antonio Missions Trip Planner to make sure you don’t miss a thing.
Disclaimer: This post is a partnership with Hotel Planner. However, the opinions expressed here and the images are mine.