Today the Missions National Historical Park preserves four of the five Spanish frontier missions in San Antonio, Texas. From Mission San José to Mission San Juan Capistrano, learn about the history and heritage and delight in the fascinating culture found in San Antonio’s Missions National Historic Park.
Park Visitor Center
Located adjacent to Mission San José, start your time in Missions National Historic Park in the Park Visitor Center. At the Visitor Center watch the award-winning film Gente de Razon, a story about the native people of 18th-century south Texas, their role in colonizing New Spain and the results of entering the Spanish missions. Also located in the Park Visitor Center is the San José Gift Store. Here you can shop unique items that will help you to remember your time in Missions National Historic Park.
Mission San José
Known as the “queen of the Missions”, Mission San José was established in 1720 and is the largest, best known and most beautiful of the missions. Having fallen into disrepair and partial ruin over the years, Mission San José was later reconstructed to give visitors a complete picture of life in a mission community. Today guests are invited to explore the mission’s granary, mill and Indian quarters. The object of both legend and admiration, don’t forget to look for La Ventana de Rosa, the Rose Window. Located on the south side of the church, the sacred window was made in 1775 and is considered one of the finest examples of baroque architecture in North America.
Appearing much as it did over two centuries ago, Mission Concepción is the oldest unrestored stone church in America. Established in 1731, admire the traces of color on the façade and restored wall paintings inside that demonstrate how cheerful Mission Concepción once was. Don’t forget to explore the bookstore at Mission Concepción offering literature that will help you to better understand the Spanish Colonial period of American history.
Mission San Juan Capistrano
Moved from an earlier location in east Texas to its present location in 1731, San Juan Capistrano lacks the grandeur of the other missions in the historical park. However, there is still something tranquil about the simple chapel and its rustic setting.
Yanaguana Trail at Mission San Juan
Winding through the wooded area to the west of Mission San Juan and along the banks of the old river channel is the Yanaguana Trail. As you make your way down the short interpretive trail don’t forget to stop at the number of breathtaking observation points along the way.
Mission San Francisco de la Espada
The southernmost mission in Missions National Historic Park is Mission San Francisco de la Espada. Completed in 1756, the church is isolated from the others. Yet beautifully maintained, it demonstrates just how precious the church remains to the community.
While visiting Mission San Francisco de la Espada, don’t forget to follow the paved trail leading to breathtaking views of Espada Aqueduct. Part of the missions original irrigation ditch system, it dates back to 1740 and is one of the oldest Spanish aqueducts in the United States.