Our pattern of making the city’s Visitor Center our first stop was continued when we arrived in San Antonio, TX. Here we were introduced to the Missions of San Antonio.
Later, as we read up on the missions, we learned that “the chain of five missions established along the San Antonio River in the 18th century became the largest concentration of Catholic missions in North America. Built primarily to expand Spanish New World influence northward from Mexico, the missions also served to introduce native inhabitants into Spanish society.
“Four of the missions (San Jose, San Juan, Concepcion, and Espada) were originally founded in East Texas. As the East Texas missions succumbed to drought, malaria, and French incursions, however, they were relocated to San Antonio.
“The missions flourished during the middle of the 18th century, but later declined due to inadequate military support, disease, and increased hostilities with Apaches and Comanches (takeintexas.com/mission-history).
We began our tour of the missions with the southernmost mission, founded in 1690 as San Francisco de las Tejas. (Texas derived its name from the Tejas Indians.) The oldest mission of the East Texas missions, it was moved to the San Antonio River in 1731 and renamed San Francisco de las Espada.
Walking through the entrance, I was struck by the craftsmanship that went into the construction of the archway.
"The mission was built out as walled compound with outer rock walls over two foot thick and a limited number of defendable entrances. The defenses evolved over the years to include two bastions (one is shown below).
"The exterior rock walls were further strengthened by Indian quarters built along the inside of the exterior walls. (A portion of these quarters is shown in the foreground below.) Inside the compound were the church and the priest's residence as well as a granary and workshops (fortwiki.com/Mission_San_Francisco_de_la_Espada).
Shown below is the foundation for the first granary (1762). This space later became the location for the first church in the village.
Some say the broken arch over the doorway (left) is a builder's mistake, but many find beauty in how it inverts the line you expect.
But it was the impressive front wall of the church with its three bells that drew our attention.
Espada was the only mission to make brick, which is still visible. The influence of these mission artisans is evident throughout the city of San Antonio today.
We took more photos of the exterior and then entered the church.