San Antonio Missions/National Historical Park #1/World UNESCO Heritage Site
Fred and Teddy in front of Mission Concepcion
Fred and I decided to take a vacation to San Antonio. We stayed on the Riverwalk in downtown, because why wouldn't you? It is so charming with many restaurants and bars to satisfy any foodies appetite; not to mention the foliage and river are gorgeous!
Across the street from the west side of the Riverwalk is a very old church, San Fernando Cathedral (1730). You know me, I love old churches and had to go in. To my great surprise, the remains of Crockett, Travis & Bowie are in a stone casket in the foyer! I thought if there were any remains, they would most certainly be at The Alamo.
It is a beautiful cathedral, but one of the first things that caught my eye as I gazed about was that there were no mouldings...anywhere. Everything was painted in Trompe-l'oeil. This is a painting technique which means to "fool the eye". So instead of putting up expensive mouldings, you paint to make create a 3D effect, thus fooling the eye.
Isn't it just beautiful?
This is one of the only churches I have been in where it is allowed to go into the altar area. The altar piece is stunning!
To the sides of the altar are these two art pieces...
Turning around to leave the altar area I saw in a corner more evidence and explanation of old layers of paint in the church.
Just a few more pictures of San Antonio and then let's hit the Mission Trail!
The old Bexar County Justice Center
The Esquire Tavern - The longest wooden bar in Texas.
San Antonio is brimming with history, culture & food!
One of my wishes for the trip was to visit all five of the historic missions along the San Antonio River. On a spectacular Sunday morning with our map and rented bikes we set out to visit them.
There were 6 missions established by the Spanish in San Antonio, but only 5 remain: Mission Espada, Mission San Juan, Mission San Jose, Mission Concepcion & of course, The Alamo.
You may be asking, as I did, why 5 missions so close together? In California 21 missions are strung out nearly the length of the state. Well the answer to that question is that the Spanish were facing pressure from the French in Louisiana as they were advancing to take more territory and the Native Americans were facing hostilities from the Apache indians and later the Comanche. In 1690 the Spanish established the first mission (Espada) in the area. It turned out to be beneficial for both groups of people. The Spanish created mission compounds where large numbers of Spanish and Native Americans lived and worked together and the Native Americans decided this was probably not so bad to serve a Spanish King...better than being annihilated by the Apache and Comanche. The reason so many missions were built in a condensed area was that there were so many Native Americans in the area.
The Mission Trail mostly follows the river, and the first mission we came to was Mission Concepcion.
Of course Teddy came along!
You didn't think I would leave him home, did you?
Mission Concepcion was built in 1731 and is the least restored mission in the system. We thought that this would be more of a tourist activity and were pleasantly surprised to see that this is an active church and we had arrived as church was about to let out. Living history at it's finest!
The Padre talking to some of his parishioners.
This Fresco on the ceiling, called
'The Eyes of God' is 250 years old.
This caught my attention. The fresco is very European
and the carving on the Holy Water is Native art.
We got lost on our way to the next mission, San Jose, and ended up at San Juan instead.
San Juan Mission was also established in 1731. I'm sorry I don't have any inside shots of the mission, but they were also having church services and I wanted to be respectful. But here are some outside shots.
This entire area would have been surrounded by a strong wall.
Here's the gate and wall area that is still intact.
Some of the outbuildings.
Mission Espada was next on the list. Espada was first built in 1690 and moved to this location in 1731.
This crucifix looked different than others,
and then I realized that the hair is real!
On to the San Jose mission we missed on the way down the trail.
San Jose was built in 1720 along the banks of the river. It was considered "the Queen of the Missions" because of the strong fortification and size of the mission compound. You can visibly see this for yourself as you enter a massive fort/compound in which hundreds, if not thousands of people must have worked and lived. San Jose is still an active church.
It's a beautiful example of frontier mission architecture.
This was a corner of the compound where a gate was located. The small doors all along the north wall are where the Native Americans lived. I was amused by the cactus growing on the roof of the lean-to.
It was time to ride back to San Antonio. The plan was to visit The Alamo on our return but I had a little bike spill between the first and second mission and had a broken rib. Between the pain of the rib and the 101 degree temperatures, we decided it would be best to rehydrate and rest. We rode 30 miles that day and I would highly recommend seeing the missions this way.
1) The rental bikes are very heavy and do not have the "boy bar". I'm used to balancing my bike using the "boy bar" between my legs when I stop, and that is how my rib got broken, so be wary.
2) Take lots of water, and perhaps take your car if it is hot. It was 101 degrees when we did it. The humidity made it feel like 106 degrees. We just are not used to that kind of heat and it took it's toll.
3) Watch for rattlesnakes on the trail. It is for the most part a concrete trail and very nice, but we did see a large rattlesnake (thankfully dead) on the trail.
The Alamo, as it is known now, was originally built in 1700 as Mission San Francisco de Solano. We all know the story of The Alamo from school history class, so I won't go into too much detail. Other than I will point out something (that I guess as a child I didn't pick up on) the European/American immigrants that settled there were Mexican citizens! The Mexicans weren't beating up on Americans, they were squelching their own frontier citizen's rebellion.
The Alamo is now under the protection of The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, not the National Park Service as the other missions are.
9:00 am and already hot!
Photos are not allowed inside the Alamo, so I apologize for the lack thereof. Keep scrolling down though, as I did get some great nighttime shots when no one was around.
"Remember The Alamo"
If you haven't been to San Antonio, The Alamo and the beautiful historic missions, I would highly encourage you to visit. There are botanic gardens, shopping and many other things to see and do in the area.