Western Trips

Western Trips

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Missions San Antonio

Visitors to San Antonio Texas have an opportunity to explore several old Spanish Missions. Western Trips visited the missions San Antonio has to offer and in this article we wanted to highlight Mission Concepcion whose original name was Mission Nuestra Senora de la Purisima.

mission concepcion san antonio texas
Mission Concepcion, San Antonio TX
There are four missions within within a national park just south of the central city of San Antonio. The four mission churches within San Antonio Missions National Historical Park are active catholic parishes. All of these mission/churches hold regular religious services.

You will also enjoy our Western Trips photo articles on the Mission San Jose and the Alamo in San Antonio.

The Construction of Mission Concepcion

Mission Concepcion was founded in 1716 by the Franciscans. The mission was transferred to it's present site in 1731 and today looks very much as it did that year. The mission you see today took about twenty years to build. It was constructed in typical Spanish Colonial architecture. The mission walls are 45 inches thick and constructed with limestone. The twin bell towers were likely topped with crosses such as the ones seen there today. The stones that the Indians used to construct the mission and the other buildings on it's grounds actually came from a quarry located on the mission grounds.

Mission Indians

As mentioned above, the Spanish missions in San Antonio were constructed by the local Indians. This practice was part of the overall mission goals, that of teaching many of the Indians to become artisans.

mission concepcion
One of the two bell towers
The Spanish missions, whether in Texas, New Mexico or California had the purpose of both converting the Indians to Christianity and as serving as a symbol of Spanish rule. The missions were to serve as notice to other countries that Spain had established their rule. Teaching the Indians to be farmers, artisans and Christians was all a part of Spain's effort to settle the region. The missions represented both church and state on the frontier.

Mission Concepcion was formally dedicated in 1755. Today Mission Concepcion  is the oldest unrestored stone church in America. It is located within the national park at  807 Mission Road, San Antonio.

The missions name is in honor of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and Juan de Acuña, the Marqués de Casafuerte. The Marqués was Viceroy of New Spain (present day Mexico) when the mission transferred to the area near the San Antonio River in 1731.

See our Western Trips article...The Bluebonnets of Burnet Texas

The Spanish Mission Alamo

The fifth mission in San Antonio is the Alamo. The Alamo's original name was Mission San Antonio de Valero. It was the first Spanish mission built in San Antonio but is not within the boundaries of the national park. The Alamo is operated by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. It's place in history was the Battle of the Alamo involving among others, Davey Crockett, James Bowie and William Travis. The Alamo is located just east of what was then known as the settlement San Antonio de Bexar.

san antonio missions national historical park
Mission Concepcion portal and archway
Exploring Mission Concepcion and the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

The national park in San Antonio is set up to be a driving tour to the four missions within it's boundary. The four missions include Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan and Mission Espada.

Visiting the four missions will take between two and four hours. There are roadways between each mission site. There's a lot of interesting history to see.

To begin your tour from downtown San Antonio, the National Park Service offers the following directions to the park Visitor Center at the Mission San Jose site. It's a good idea to begin your tour at this Visitor Center. San Jose Mission is the second mission south of San Antonio. Mission Concepcion was the first and is located just north of Mission San Jose. At the Visitor Center you can view exhibits, obtain park maps and other information to begin your tour.

missions san antonio
View of Mission Concepcion stonework
Directions From Downtown San Antonio and the Alamo Area

Travel south on South St. Mary’s Street. Approximately one mile south of downtown, after passing beneath railroad tracks, South St. Mary’s becomes Roosevelt Ave. Continue on Roosevelt 4 miles to a large stone structure on your left: Mission San José. At the first stop light past the mission turn left onto New Napier Ave. Follow the signs into our parking lot or bus lanes, as appropriate.

When you start your tour at the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park Visitors Center be sure to ask about the times of guided park ranger tours of the grounds at Mission San Jose. Mission San Jose still has it's large walls around the compound with built in rooms. There's a lot of history that goes with it and a guided tour is well worth the time.

(Photos and article copyright Western Trips)

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