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San Antonio MISSIONS: 

San Antonio MISSIONS Four Spanish frontier missions, part of a colonization system that stretched across the Spanish Southwest in the 17th, 18th, 19th centuries, are preserved here. They include Missions San Jose, San Juan, Espada, and Concepcion. The park, containing many cultural sites along with some natural areas, was established in 1978. The park covers about 819 acres.

Typical Mission Day: 

Typical Mission Day Day in, day out, mission life revolved around three goals established by the Spanish Crown and Franciscan Missionaries: to instill the Catholic faith, insure obedience to and protect the interests of the Spanish Crown, and to acquire skills to ensure economic self sufficiency. Morning: For mission residents, days were highly structured. At sunrise, bells called them to morning mass, followed by singing, prayers, and religious instruction, after which they returned to their quarters for their morning meal.   Afterward, some men headed for the fields, orchards, gardens, or quarries. Others stayed behind to work in the forge, render tallow, cure hides, engage in masonry or carpentry work. Women learned new ways to prepare food, to sew, spin, weave, garden, make candles and soap. Fishing and arrow making were accomplished by older mission residents. Children over the age of five practiced their catechism.   Some mission inhabitants were assigned to live temporarily at the distant mission ranches to tend livestock.   A few Indian converts were trained in the use of firearms and other defensive weaponry. Soldiers detailed from the presidio to protect the missions were few, usually limited to two military men and their families, making it essential that some trusted mission inhabitants learn rudimentary military arts in order to protect their community from enemies.   The success of mission vocational training is apparent in the structures they built, fertile farms tilled, and the growing herds of horses, cattle, sheep, goats, and other livestock.  

Day Continued: 

Day Continued Afternoon: Ringing bells of the noon Angelus called everyone to the midday meal, typically consisting of a dish of maize (corn) with a daily ration of beef, vegetables (most often squash and beans), and fruit. After a brief rest, work resumed within the compound and fields until the bells summoned everyone home at sunset.   Evening: After another brief rest, mission inhabitants participated in a recitation of the rosary accompanied by chanting and singing. After an evening meal of fish, beans, and corn, curfew brought the day to a close.

Concepcion: 

Concepcion Originally founded in 1716 in what is now eastern Texas, the mission was one of six developed by Franciscans to serve as a buffer against the threat of French incursion into Spanish territory from Louisiana. After a tenuous existence and several moves, the mission was transferred to its present site in 1731. This handsome stone church was completed in 1755, and appears very much as it did over two centuries ago. It remains the least restored of the colonial structures within the Park. In its heyday, colorful geometric designs covered its surface, but the patterns have long since faded or been worn away.

Concepcion is Moved: 

Concepcion is Moved Transfer of the Mission Originally founded in 1716 in what is now eastern Texas, the mission was one of six developed by Franciscans to serve as a buffer against the threat of French incursion into Spanish territory from Louisiana. After a tenuous existence and several moves, the mission was transferred to its present site in 1731. This handsome stone church was completed in 1755, and appears very much as it did over two centuries ago. It remains the least restored of the colonial structures within the Park. In its heyday, colorful geometric designs covered its surface, but the patterns have long since faded or been worn away.

San Juan: 

San Juan Originally founded in 1716 in eastern Texas, Mission San Juan was transferred in 1731 to its present location. In 1756, the stone church, a friary, and a granary were completed. A larger church was begun, but was abandoned when half complete, the result of population decline.

San Juan: 

San Juan A Self-Sustaining Community By the mid 1700s, San Juan, with its rich farm and pasturelands, was a regional supplier of agricultural produce. The National Park Service will recapture this role with the planned return of water to the San Juan Acequia, an irrigation ditch, to be used to irrigate a Spanish Colonial demonstration farm. San Juan was a self-sustaining community. Within the compound, Indian artisans produced iron tools, cloth, and prepared hides. Orchards and gardens outside the walls provided melons, pumpkins, grapes, and peppers. Beyond the mission complex Indian farmers cultivated maize (corn), beans, squash, sweet potatoes, and sugar cane in irrigated fields. Over 20 miles southeast of Mission San Juan was Rancho de Pataguilla, which, in 1762, reported 3,500 sheep and nearly as many cattle. These products helped support not only the San Antonio missions, but also the local settlements and presidial garrisons in the area. With its surplus, San Juan established a trade network stretching east to Louisiana and south to Coahuila, Mexico. This thriving economy helped the mission to survive epidemics and Indian attacks in its final years.

Irrigation: 

Irrigation San Juan Acequia Using a system which has its roots in the ancient Middle East, Rome, and the great Indian civilizations in Mesoamerica, this irrigation ditch was built to water the nearby mission lands. This means of irrigation was adopted by later Anglo-American, German, and Italian settlers in South Texas. The San Juan Acequia is restored to use again for watering the Spanish Colonial Demonstration Farm.

San Jose: 

San Jose Founded in 1720, the mission was named for Saint Joseph and the Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo, the governor of the Province of Coahuila and Texas at the time. It was built on the banks of the San Antonio river several miles to the south of the earlier mission of San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo). Mission San Jose continues to be an active parish. Visitors are welcome to attend mass on Sundays.

Rose Window: 

Rose Window San Juan La Ventana de Rosa (the Rose Window), the south window of Mission San José’s sacristy (photo: 1980). The window, sculpted ca. 1775, has been the object of both legend and admiration. The window has also been described during the Feast of Pentecost as the site where the host was shown to gathered celebrants.  

Espada: 

Espada Founded in 1690 as San Francisco de los Tejas near present-day Weches, this was the first mission in Texas. In 1731, the mission was transferred to the San Antonio River area and renamed Mission San Francisco de la Espada. A friary was built at Espada in 1745. The church was completed in 1756.

Acequia at Espada: 

Acequia at Espada Espada Acequia Mission Espada's acequia (irrigation) system can still be seen today. The main ditch or acequia madre, continues to carry water to the mission and it’s neighboring farm lands. This water is still used by residents living its former mission lands. The initial survival of a new mission depended upon the planting and harvesting of crops. In south central Texas, intermittent rainfall and the need for a reliable water source made the design and installation of an acequia system a high priority. Irrigation was so important to spanish colonial settlers that they measured cropland in suertes, the amount of land that could be watered in one day. The use of acequias was originally brought to the arid regions of Spain by the Romans. When Franciscans missionaries arrived in the desert Southwest they found the system worked well in the hot, dry environment. In some areas, like New Mexico, it blended in easily with the irrigation system already in use by the Puebloan Native Americans. In order to distribute water to the missions along the San Antonio River, Franciscan missionaries oversaw the construction of seven gravity-flow ditches, dams, and at least one aqueduct--a 15-mile network that irrigated approximately 3,500 acres of land.

Missions: 

Missions The missions continue to be a tourist attraction today. Many adults and students visit these missions each year. Some of the churches still hold masses.

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