Mission San Jose

Park Entrance Sign at Mission San Jose

At the midpoint of the string of 5 historic missions in San Antonio is Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo. In 1720, the governor of Coahuila and Texas, the Marques de San Miguel de Aguayo authorized and funded the mission and a Franciscan Father named Antonio Margil de Jesus founded it near the Presidio of San Antonio de Bexar. The mission was moved a couple of times to get it just in the right place along the river. The mission suffered from disease and attack by Apaches but it eventually became the most successful of the missions with up to 400 inhabitants at one point.

An initial adobe church and bell tower was built, along with a convento, granary, stone houses, mills, and workshops. The mission also had a large ranch of sheep and cattle. Below is a model of what the mission looked like.

A miniature of the mission in the old granary

In 1768 the foundation of a new church was laid, and by 1777 a sacristy was completed built from local limestone. Eventually a tower was completed that you still can see today. Nobody seems to know if a second tower was planned for symmetry. It seems logical to me they would have but just ran out of resources and people. By the end of the 18th century the mission population was waning as many of the local peoples had already adapted to European lifestyle and the mission of the Mission no longer seemed relevant.

In the early 1800s, rebel soldier began sheltering in the Mission as Mexico eventually became independent of Spain. The soldiers apparently did not treat the mission well and by 1824 the Mission was closed.

Gun Ports in Corner of the Mission Walls

In 1859 Benedictines took ownership of the missions and constructed a convent, but they left in 1868 and the church began literally falling apart. Eventually more priests arrived in the 1870s and held services in the church, but they could not save the church from roof collapses and decay.

Mission San Jose Church with Convento

Eventually by the 1890s the worst thing to befall the mission happened: tourists. People started showing up from all around and looting and damaging the structure removing statues, old doors, and pieces of the painted walls. People sought to protect the mission, once considered to be the most beautiful of all the Spanish missions, but they received very little support and money from the State, the Church, or rich folk. Fences were built to keep out the cows and much of the former mission ground had roads built across it and other buildings constructed.

Restored Mission San Jose Church Interior

In the early 20th century the San Antonio Conservation Society did managed to buy up much of the former mission land and, like with the other missions, the Great Depression arrived to save the day. Government funded labor and the Catholic church rebuilt many of the walls and replaced roofs. Artisans joined the mission practicing crafts of the former mission. The state agreed to re-route roads around the mission, and by 1941 in conjunction with the Church and Conservation Society, a state park was founded and the mission named as a National Historic Site. An annual celebration was started that eventually became A Night in Old San Antonio or NIOSA which is still major event to this day.

Mission San Jose Church Main Entrance

In 1978 the National Historical Park was established and five years later Mission San Jose was officially part of the National Park. Today it seems to be the largest of the missions parks with a visitors center and store. It is a great place to visit if you are in San Antonio.

The front façade of Mission San Jose is said to have some of the most elaborate carvings of all the missions in the United States. Below is a close-up of the carvings high above the main doorway.

Carvings of Mission San Jose

Photographically, one feature that I really enjoyed was the archways of the convento area. I spent a lot of time photographing these arches from different angles. Not really a sort of architecture you see much of in the United States though you do see examples of another kind of arches in nearly every town usually next to a hamburger joint. The photo below looks through the arches down the path to the sacristy entrance with the dome visible above. This is my favorite photo at this mission.

Arches at Mission San Jose

A view looking along the wall with entrances to the housing for the mission inhabitants with the church in the distance. I wanted the long row of poles holding up the overhang to form almost a tunnel. This was a very contrasted scene with the bright sun almost directly overhead but I was able to pull up some good detail in the shadows.

Housing Along the Outer Wall at Mission San Jose

That was my visit to Mission San Jose, the Queen of the Missions. If you are only going to see one of the San Antonio missions (besides the Alamo), this would probably be the one to visit as it seems to be the most complete and it has a full visitors center. The church is nicely restored, the grounds are well kept, and you can wander through the mission buildings and go through the church provided that there is no mass in progress.

The Queen of the Missions

On to Mission Concepcion. Thanks for reading.

41 thoughts on “Mission San Jose

  1. I would agree about this being the most beautiful mission. The carving is intricate for sure, have to wonder how long it took them to do the carving around the door. That was one thing I loved about being in Europe, looking at all their amazing architecture and the details that were in it!
    Wonderful photos, and I think the photo of the arches is the best one as well, worth your time!
    Glad they were able to restore this mission, sounds like it would be nice place to visit. Another reason to visit Texas. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. From what I have read, when they built these things they thought in terms of decades.

      It is also interesting that this thing in the course of about 50 years in the 19th century went through multiple civil wars and was possessed by five different nations (five of the six flags of Texas). It is amazing that any of it survived.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree, it’s a beautiful mission. I love the arches photo, and I also like the interior photo of the church. The dome is pretty impressive as well. I’ll definitely want to visit this mission if I ever get down to San Antone.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I struggle trying to figure out what to do with the arches. It might have been better if it hadn’t been high noon.

      In side the church was a lot of waiting around for people to not be standing in front of the altar. In hindsight, I think I missed looking more at the sacristy and the ornate window it has.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, I was trying to make the post interesting by telling a very brief history to go along with the photos. I also learned a thing or two. There is obviously a lot more to the history of these places than I put down.

      I am sure that we mostly get the early history as written down by those that could write and not many of the others. So who knows the whole set of facts?

      Liked by 1 person

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