Texas Adventure Week Seven: San Antonio Missions

I didn’t update last week because we took a “mini-vacation” to San Antonio and visited four of the missions in the area: San Jose, Espada, San Juan, and Concepcion, along with the Acequia Espada, a water system that supplied water to the missions and crops. We started at the visitor center at San Jose and took the trail, skipping only the last stop, the Alamo. The kids were all tired and we’ve been there several times before. We’ll visit it again before long!

Mission San Jose is the largest and is known as the “Queen of the Missions”. It was founded in 1719. It was the best restored and preserved of the four we visited. The kids were excited to see the famous “Rose Window” that we recently read about in The Lady in the Blue Cloak: Legends from the Texas Missions. There were lots of outbuildings to explore…it took us a while to get through it all! The Indian quarters, granary, workshop, and mill were all really interesting to see. I think the highlight here, though, was the mill. It’s the oldest mill in Texas and still operates!

Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo
Original plaster on the outside of the church.
The famous “Rose Window”
Water flowing into the mill.
Looking down into the lower part of the mill.
The mill house from the front.
Inside the mill house…we watched it grind grain!

Next we visited the Acequia Espada, the oldest Spanish aqueduct in the United States. It was built between 1731-1745 and is still functioning and being used by farmers today!

The aqueduct crossing an arroyo.
Acequia Espada

The second mission we visited was Mission Espada, established in 1731. It was bustling with activity as the local parish members prepared for a Maundy Thursday service. Franciscan monks were busily unloading Easter lilies from vehicles. The small church and sacristy are beautiful. Even though the outbuildings weren’t as well preserved or restored as at San Jose, we were able to tell what was what based on the layout and recognize what was left of  the living quarters, granary, etc.

Mission San Francisco de la Espada
Sitting inside an 18th century hearth.

Our next stop was Mission San Juan. The tiny church here is badly in need of repair and the grounds weren’t as well preserved as the others, but it was unique and had it’s interesting points, including a Native American burial area where many of the inhabitants were buried. It also boasted a large current population…of fire ants!

Mission San Juan Capistrano
One of several cracks being monitored

Our last stop was Mission Concepcion. The church and convento are large, beautiful, and very well preserved but it’s in a much more populated area and the surrounding grounds and outbuildings are gone. The standout feature here was the well-preserved original frescoes in several areas. I think it was the most beautiful of the four.

Mission Nuestra Senora de la Purisma Concepcion
Original frescoes at Concepcion
More original frescoes
More original frescoes

It was a great trip! The kids enjoyed putting actual locations to the descriptions of mission life we’ve read recently. Seeing the buildings, grounds, and artifacts made it all more concrete. It was easy to visualize the day to day activities that went on while standing where they actually happened! We wrapped up our two day trip with a day at Sea World to relax. Next week we’ll continue with the colonization of Texas and the beginnings of the Revolution.

Don’t miss the first six updates in this series:


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  1. I love reading about your Texas adventures! Makes me want to take a vacation there. 🙂

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