Located along a stretch of about five miles are the five missions of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Our visit to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and Juan de Acuña* is the fourth of these missions that we toured.
The missions were Indian towns, with the church as the focus, where, in the 1700s, the native people were learning to become Spanish citizens. In order to become a citizen, they had to be Catholic.
This stone church took about 20 years to build and was dedicated in 1755. It stands proudly as the oldest unrestored stone church in America.
Mission builders, skilled master craftsmen recruited from Mexico, preserved the basic Spanish model, with modifications dictated by frontier conditions. The church is an excellent example of Spanish Colonial architecture with a variety of features: intricate Renaissance and Moorish details complement Romanesque forms and gothic arches.
Twin bell towers may have been topped by crosses similar to those in place today.
Colorful Moorish designs mix with images showing both Native American and Spanish Catholic influences.
The gray exterior walls of the church and convento had originally been covered with colorful murals. The colors of the designs on the interior walls of the church give some indication of what the interior looked like over 200 years ago.
The integrity of the church and convento roofs at Mission Concepción prevented the deterioration of many fine examples of frescos. Fresco is one of the most permanent ways of decorating. Pigment is applied to wet lime plaster, which absorbs the color. The paints used on the mission churches contained limestone and goat's milk as binders.
*Juan de Acuña, the Marqués de Casafuerte, was Viceroy of New Spain (Mexico) when the mission transferred to the San Antonio River area in 1731.
The information above was found at nps.gov/saan/planyourvisit/concepcion