Thursday, March 28, 2013

San José Restored

In 1778, Father Juan Augustin Morfi described San Antonio's Mission San José thusly: "It has a beautiful cupola (dome), though it is overcrowded with unnecessary ornaments with which it is heavily decorated, detracting somewhat from its natural beauty. In a word, no one could have imagined that there were such good artists in so desolate a place" (national park service brochure).

Time has significantly diminished the decorative ornamentation on the cupola and the exterior walls of the church (see yesterday's entry for a hint of the wall ornamentation), but other products of skilled artisans are evident at the entrance.

A display of this skilled work can be found in the carvings on the door.

While some reconstruction took place in the 1930s and extensive preservation in the early 2010s, most of the original facade remains intact.

Although the sculptors and carvers are unknown, their work can be appreciated when viewing the door and the figures around the entrance. Below is Saint Joaquin, father of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

Just above the door is Our Lady of Guadalupe. In this manifestation, the Virgin Mary became the patron saint of the Americas. She was the first new world saint, appearing to an Indian peasant as a native herself.

The figure to the right of the door is Saint Anne, the mother of Mary. She is holding Mary as an infant.

Around the Rose Window (an architectural term for the decorative window above the main door of a church) are: Saint Dominic (left), a contemporary of Saint Francis and founder of an order of preachers; Saint Joseph or San José (center), husband of Mary and earthly father of Jesus, shown holding the Patron Saint of the Laborer; and Saint Francis of Assisi (right), founder of the Franciscan Order.

Just inside the church is this area.

The beauty of the interior of the church was unexpected. We took several minutes to make a number of visual "rounds" of the interior.

Funds for the recent restoration work also funded the crafting of an elaborate new centerpiece: a nearly floor-to-ceiling retablo to house four statues, the crucifix and the tabernacle.

Made from red cedar by famed Mexican Catholic artist Agustin Parra, it's painted primarily in grayish blue, a color unique to this mission that matches the original hues found above the choir loft (below).

Its chambers accommodate statues of the Virgin Mary (bottom figure), St. Michael (top),

St. Francis (top), and St. Joseph (bottom).

The restoration work was beautiful, and the fact that the church is an active part of the community is even more satisfying.

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