On a mission in San Antonio


San Jose Mission is the place to start. There are rangers, tours, gift shop and all sorts of information to provide a good background for seeing the other three missions.


San Juan Capistrano’s white facade dazzles in the Texas sunlight.

Every time I have visited San Antonio, I’ve remembered the Alamo. But until my last visit a few weeks ago, I had never seen the other missions which are part of a World Heritage Site.

The Alamo is all about a battle, courage and danger.  The other missions tell a different tale, one of involves faith, community, agriculture. It’s the story of the priests who brought their religion and their culture to this part of Texas. The missions that they left behind in the 18th Century are quite different from one another.

The hardy among us can hike the trail, or ride a bike. Those of us who prefer air conditioning and aren’t wearing hiking boots can drive.


Framed by the structure over top its well, the Espada is the only mission church made of brick.

I had my favorite. But I’m glad I saw all of them: San Juan Capistrano, Concepcion, San Jose and Espada.

Start at San Jose for the tour. It’s the best restored of them all. The layout of the mission gave me some idea how it was used and the church is spectacular.

San Juan has a brilliant white facade but when I got there the church was locked up tight and there was no one else around.

Concepcion’s walls were once painted in brilliant colors. Make sure to stop in and see the traces of the artistry.

Take a look inside the Concepcion Mission, to see the painted walls.

Espada is the only mission made of brick. It’s the most remote but worth a stop. (Trust your GPS or map. You might feel like you’re on the way to the middle of nowhere. That’s OK. It’s where Espada is.)

A visit to all of them took me an afternoon. With the Texas landscape, the old buildings and the scenic drive, it was an enjoyable trip.

Ⓒ Text and photos by Mary K. Tilghman