Sunday, July 03, 2011

The Missions


We've really had fun being local tourists in San Antonio.  We've played at the zoo, Natural Bridge Caverns, the wildlife park, Sea World, the River Walk, both art museums, the children's museums, the Witte, the Museum of Texan Cultures, the botanical and sunken tea gardens, the many kid parks and amusements, the bizarre (toilet seat museum!?), and enjoyed numerous festivals and parades.  One of the few places left that I wanted to explore was the old Franciscan missions.  Of course we'd been to the Alamo several times.  How can you visit San Antonio, much less live here and NOT see the Alamo?  Including the Alamo, there are five old missions in San Antonio, all within a few miles of each other. 

Andrea and Jeremy graciously offered to watch the kids for us so we could have a 10th anniversary/last-chance-before-the-baby getaway.  We dined in a French restaurant that evening and stayed in a swanky hotel downtown.  It was so fun to be alone and on a date with my man!  

The next morning we set out to see two of the missions, San Jose and Concepcion.  We wanted to see San Jose because it was the largest, and Concepcion since it was reported to be the most beautiful and well preserved. 


Concepcion still has an active parish.  It was founded in 1716 and the church dedicated in 1755.  It was also the site of the first significant skirmish between the Mexican army and Texans during the Texas Revolution.  When we arrived the parishioners were holding Mass.  We stayed quietly in the back and listened to the hymns and service in Spanish.  The interior was beautiful, but of course we didn't take any of our own pictures during the Mass.  Here's one I found online.

Main Altar inside Mission Concepcion Church, San Antonio, United States
This travel blog photo's source is TravelPod page: San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
Outside the main chapel a mariachi band was practicing for a later service.  To the side of the mission was a beautiful shaded garden for religious contemplation. 

San Jose 

Here I am with the Mr. in all my 9 months pregnant glory.

By the visitor's center some artists were holding a traditional pottery demonstration.  Here he is building the fire around the kiln. 

A reproduction of the granary mill that existed.  The mill originally here was the first in Texas.

And a closer view of the chapel itself:

The mission was home not only to the friars, but up to 300 people.  It was quite the community with a school, farms, and families living in the thick, thick rectangular wall that surrounded the chapel, store room, refractory, convento, kitchen, and grounds. It was designed as a fortress too in times of attack.  The walls were rebuilt in the 1930s along the original foundations, however, about 80% of the church itself withstood the test of time and malicious abuse.  Inside the walls there were tiny connecting rooms and small slits in the wall.  The courtyard within the walls was very spacious.

A portion of the original plaster with the colorful fresco.  Apparently the buildings were not the drab gray we see today, but had a riot of color and designs.

After our trip to the missions we toured the Spanish "governor's" palace in downtown San Antonio.  Hint: there never was a governor of San Antonio, just some Spanish administrative bureaucrat.  Apparently folks in the 1920s liked to romanticize history a bit, and where it didn't fit their preconceived notions, they just made it up.  The building was added onto in the 20s to make it more "fitting" as a mansion.  Boo!  The courtyard gardens were pretty, but all in all, worth a pass.  

Next we visited the McNay art museum together.  I'd taken the kids there two years before, but it was so nice to leisurely browse the exhibits instead of racing to the next piece.  The McNay has an excellent collection of French impressionist artists, including some water lily paintings by Monet.  We also enjoyed a recital there performed by musicians from the San Antonio Symphony.

 We did enjoy our last pre-baby hurrah, and now I finally feel that we've fully experienced San Antonio.  It is such a fun and interesting city!


Adrasteia said...

What a neat date! I actually did manage to visit San Antonio without seeing the Alamo, but I remain secure in the knowledge that it persists in spite of my inattention. I'm glad you had a lovely time and got to get out a bit before the little one turned up!

Rachel Ellis said...

Didn't see the Alamo? Well then, I guess you will have to come back to Texas (and see us too). :)