Mission Concepción

The northern-most of the four mission of San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is Mission Concepción. This mission seems to be the smallest of the four and there were very few people there when I visited, but it does have the most intact surviving church from the 18th century and according to the National Park it is the oldest unrestored stone church in America. It is today much like it was when the church was completed more than 250 years ago. This was probably also my favorite mission that I visited, but that may in part due to the park host there that gave me a nice tour of the church.

Mission Concepción began, like some of the other San Antonio missions, as a mission to a tribe of the Caddoan Indians of east Texas. Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de los Hainais was founded in 1716 near present day Nacogdoches Texas. But, you probably know how this story goes by now. The mission had a hard time getting supplies from Mexico, suffered famine and then disease, and finally the French basically chased them away in 1719.

The Franciscans returned a couple of years later to try to salvage the mission, but the Spaniards were basically falling back from east Texas and there was little protection from the French. So, in 1729 they decided to move the mission to the Colorado river around modern day Austin, but then quickly relocated to its current location near the San Antonio river between The Alamo and Mission San Jose. The mission was renamed Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña as they no longer served the Hainais and to honor a Viceroy.

Mission Concepción

The mission began to do well at its new location. It had a ranch and farm nearby, and though it did suffer attacks from the Apaches, the population grew. Initially there were adobe and thatched huts, but stones from a nearby quarry were used to build more permanent buildings and walls. A church was begun and dedicated in 1755. It featured two towers capped by iron crosses. Mission Concepción’s close-by quarry probably made church construction much easier and successful that at some of the other missions. Remains of the quarry can be seen near the parking lot.

Mission Concepción

Secularization of Mission Concepción was begun in the late 18th century as the church ranch lands were divided up among the resident Indians and the church was placed under the care of nearby Mission San Jose. Secularization was the end-goal of the missions as they sought to spread Christianity and transform aboriginal culture into European style culture as part of New Spain and once this was accomplished, there was no need for a mission.

The early 19th century brought wars. During the Mexican war of independence, Texas war of independence, Mexican-American war the mission was periodically used by various armies or rebel groups and they weren’t always kind to the facilities. But by the mid 19th century the mission began receiving care once again as various church organization took possession of the mission. A seminary and orphanage were eventually built nearby.

In the 1930s, serious interior restoration work began and archeological research was done as well. The interior was restored with an attempt to salvage the original frescoes and works of art. The interior of the church is shown in the image below with the park host who gave me the tour.

Church at Mission Concepción

Mission Concepción is now part of the National Historical Park and still a church as well. It is well worth the visit if you are in to seeing historical sites. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Behind the altar there is a large restored original painting of the mission’s name sake, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. This painting was donated to the mission in the 18th century, suffered some damage over the years and has been recently restored to its present state. It is quite a beautiful painting.

Altar of Mission Concepción

Above is the dome. Photographically, I played with aligning the gothic looking chandelier against the circle of the dome to make a more abstract photo and I think it turned out well. This was as wide as I could shoot and pretty much on the floor to get this shot. If I had more time and a tripod, I could have aligned it better.

Dome of Mission Concepción

To the left of the main entrance is a small devotion alcove. I worked to frame the crucifix and candles by the dark arched doorway looking in. You can see hints of the original art painted on the walls. This is a really low doorway that I had to duck down to get through and I had to take a knee to get this photo.

Mission Concepción

There are some rooms open to tour in the convento attached to the church as well as an arched walkway that I found photogenic. That wrapped up my visit to the San Antonio Missions National Historical park.

Arched Walkway at Mission Concepción

I enjoyed reading and got a lot of valuable information from a book called The Spanish Missions of San Antonio by Lewis F. Fisher. The park website also has a lot of information if you are interested. I think the park is worth a visit and you can do it all in a day without being too hurried.

My previous posts covering the other missions of the park:

21 thoughts on “Mission Concepción

  1. I think that is a very beautiful mission. I love the flagstone floors of the church, as well as how the altar glows, in contrast to the darkened seating area. The stone walls make the church look muscular and solid. Great photos. Thanks for showing us the missions of Texas.

    Liked by 1 person

            1. I guess those missions are spread pretty far and wide.
              I have read that California was earlier to begin restoring missions than Texas was. Most of the Texas missions east of here are lost to history anyway as the territory was disputed between France and Spain which doomed many of the Spanish missions and presidios in East Texas. There are some archeological sites where some of them were located.
              There was a mission a little to west of me in Menard Texas, but I think the Spanish didn’t support it well and the Apaches or Comanches razed it to the ground. Only the foundation remains.

              Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh, i didn’t think to ask. There was only one other couple there and I almost had the place to myself. But I only brought my little camera with me as it was daytime and I was traveling lightly.


  2. amazing to think the mission is still in such great condition after 250 years. And while I don’t know what the interior looke dlike before the restoration, it certainly is beautiful now.

    so many great photos here – the chandelier, the alcove, and the arched walkway. Sounds like a photographer has to be pretty limber to get the proper shot.

    and how lucky you were to get a guide who was so helpful. I’m guessing it may be more difficult to get such personal attention when it’s a bit busier…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a Monday. The church was built quite well compared to the other mission churches. I know the interior had restoration work done in the 20th century. And that painting is original with water damage repaired.
      I may have my native Texan card revoked for saying, but I find this much more impressive than the Alamo.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Its wonderful that this church is still in use today and its hard to pick a favorite photo this time. I love the inside, the painting is a beautiful work of art. I agree with Tippy about the altar and how the glow makes it really stand out in a lovely way.
    The archways are great too! I always think they add to the beauty of a building. Nice that you had a tour guide, thanks for taking us along. 🙂
    Another place to visit when we make it to Texas and I won’t havw to duck when touring it.

    Liked by 1 person

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