Results 1-6of 6 Reviews
May 19, 2004
Peaceful ... Tranquil ... An oasis of serenity after the tourist-overrun Alamo. Those were my thoughts as I wandered the grounds of Mission San Jose: Six miles but 150 years removed from downtown San Antonio. The hour-and-half interlude we were given here was an unexpected and welcome addition to my 10-day transcontinental journey on American Orient Express.
In 1817, the valley drained by the San Antonio River was a natural destination for Spanish missionaries hoping to establish communities in the dry country of East Texas. The first, according to National Park Service literature, was Mission San Antonio de Valero --- the one we now call The Alamo. By 1831, however, there were four more along an 8-10 mile stretch of river to the south. The lovely --- and lovingly restored --- Mission San Jose is the site the National Park Service visitor center and focal point of the Mission Trail the Service has established to connect them all.
(The Alamo itself, the Park Service brochure notes, is still under the care of The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, which began restoration in 1905.)
Visiting Mission San Jose provides a more complete picture of life in the early mission settlements than does the Alamo. Though the latter was once part of a very large compound, all that remain now are the main chapel and the immediately surrounding courtyards containing the garrison’s quarters and some other military installations; San Jose helps you visualize the rest of the largely agriculture-based community. In fact, there’s little if anything military here: the living quarters built into the walls served mainly as the homes of the families doing the settlement’s everyday work.
Mission San Jose wasn’t always walled as is it now: increasingly violent clashes between the mission residents and indigenous tribes forced the settlers to leave their homes near the fields and move into the fortified quarters we’ll be touring. Beyond the church and monastery, we can also follow the system of aqueducts and trenches that supplied the settlement’s water and powered the mill that produced its flour. In fact, a costumed miller may be on hand to demonstrate it for you.
Mission San Jose is still an active Roman Catholic church with regular Masses. Before entering the chapel, gentlemen should remove their hats and women should make sure their heads are covered. Catholic or not, you’ll be welcome here and find it to be a pleasant respite from the Texas sun and San Antonio traffic.
You’ll need to walk at least a quarter-mile from the Visitor Center to the church, but the path is paved and level. If you have a car, you can obtain a Park Service map and drive the Mission Trail to the other still-active churches. However, the road passes through some low-lying areas and may be impassable during periods of high water.
From journal Across America on American Orient Express
by Katie Morgan
San Antonio, Texas
July 11, 2000
From journal San Antonio
September 2, 2004
For information on the entire San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, stop in the modern Visitor Center. Four of the five missions (all except the Alamo) are under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, which always supplies excellent brochures. The other missions are the Mission Conception, Mission San Juan and Mission Espada.
The mission community was founded here in 1720 under Fray Antonio Margil de Jesus. It became a model of mission organization in part because of its rich fields and pastures. It was secularized in 1824 and was no longer a mission. The buildings were either structurally damaged or vandalized during decades of neglect (its northern tower, which collapsed in 1928, remains missing). In 1931 the Franciscans returned to the complex to continue the tradition of the religion taught to the mission Indians.
The attractively rustic limestone church was constructed from about 1766 to 1782 and is perhaps the premier example of Spanish Baroque architecture in the United States. The nave is capped by a low central sacristy dome. At the base of its southern tower, there are still remnants of the original colorful geometric patterns that had decorated its stucco exteriors. Its ornately crafted rose window, nicknamed "Rosa’s Window", is credited to Pedro Huizar (who also worked on the carved details of the main elevation). Built around 1775, the vertically oriented opening was allegedly his memorial to his tragic sweetheart Rosa.
The site is surrounded by a bastion and sturdy stone walls along which the 84 Indian apartments were positioned. These quarters, along with the granary and the church itself, were restored from 1931 to 1949 under the direction of Harvey P. Smith. The arcade of the former convent, the grist mill, and some workshop foundations are also within the site. One room houses a large scale model of the complex with recorded narration. The grounds are beautiful, but watch out for fire ants, pointy plants, and low doorways. Visitors can check out the religious gift shop and the Spanish Colonial bookstore.
Admission to the missions is free. The Mission San Jose is easy to reach by VIA bus 42 from downtown, as it stops right outside the grounds. It runs twice an hour and takes about twenty minutes each way. Parking is available for those with cars, and you can make a full day of it with hiking or cycling along the trails and a picnic lunch in designated areas.
From journal Bill in the USA - SAN ANTONIO
Bayside, New York
September 5, 2001
This mission was quite imposing to say the least; as we walked through the granary, the church (whatever is left and restored is still being used today)and some of the open air areas, I was anguished by the height of the stone walls. They towered over me and I imagined how hopelessly diminished the Indians must have felt when surrounded by them.
Founded in 1720, the mission was named for St. Joseph and the governor of Texas at the time. Its construction was completed in 1782, and like its predecessor, the Alamo, was erected on the banks the banks of the San Antonio river. There has been extensive restoration and preservation work done here, and the mission now falls under the jurisdiction of the Texas Department of Parks.
Visits to the mission are free, but you are encouraged to make a small donation. Don't miss the short feature film they show in the small theater by the gift shop. We saw it prior to walking on the grounds, and it definitely enhanced the distate I was already feeling about the mission. It talks about a loss of culture, a loss of tradition, a loss of a people.
You can view some videos of the cemetary at the mission as well as its interior HERE
It does not come as a surprise that the local Indians did not rejoice at the prospect of joining the mission; a mere 10% of the eventual total population of San Jose Mission made it here the first year. Eventually Indians came from miles around to build the church, sleeping "cells", workshops and other rooms at the mission.
There are 4 other missions on this trail, if you wish to continue. For my take on the mission in Carmel, you can click your browser here
From journal Hola San Antonio
November 22, 2000
People who have visited Santa Fe New Mexico will recognize the building styles. I love the Rose window. Visitors are welcome in the church, however the church does have regular religious activities: masses and weddings etc. There is a small gift shop.
It can be extremely hot in San Antonio in the summer months so be advised that there is a lot of outdoor walking around if you want to see the entire mission. If you're not careful you can get sunburned quickly. It is worth the time and effort to visit this mission. It is interesting to imagine what life must have been like over 200 years ago.
telephone (210) 932-1001 (210) 534-8833
From journal San Antonio, the Best of Texas--wonderful!
by Local Secrets
New York, New York
March 18, 2008