San Antonio’s Missions National Historical Park includes five historic Spanish missions. The Alamo (1718) was the first mission to be built. Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo (1720)—the second mission—is often called the “Queen of the Missions.” Mission San José is an impressive structure, famous for its rose window.
Wikipedia: San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park preserves four of the five Spanish frontier missions in San Antonio, Texas. These outposts were established by Catholic religious orders to spread Christianity. These missions formed part of a colonization system that stretched across the Spanish Southwest in the 17th, 18th, 19th centuries.
Mission San José
Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo was established in 1720. Located at 6519 San Jose Drive, it was designated the San Jose Mission National Historic Site in 1941. The historic site was administratively listed on the National Register on October 15, 1966. Mission San Jose was founded by Father Antonio Margil de Jesús.
The Five Spanish Missions of Old San Antonio
A 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 Alamo (1718)
The first and today the most widely known of these missions was San Antonio de Valero, commonly called the Alamo. It was established in 1718 as a way station between missions already existing in East Texas and other base missions in Mexico. It was well over 100 years old when it became the focal point for the Battle of the Alamo, fought March 6, 1836. The Alamo will always be remembered and associated with that battle.
San Jose (1720)
Soon after the building of the Alamo, a second mission was founded in 1720 about five miles downstream. Named San Jose, this new mission was established by Fray Antonio Margil de Jesus, who had previously left a failed mission in East Texas. A model among the Texas missions, San Jose gained a reputation as a major social and cultural center. Among the San Antonio missions, it also provided the strongest garrison against raids from Indians.
San Antonio Mission Trail
San Antonio Missions
Article by Merrill Baum
Photography by George Hosek
The missions of San Antonio are a main factor in the history of Texas and the core of the development of the city of San Antonio. In 1983, the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park was established.
Responsible for the maintenance and running of the five missions, it is located at 2202 Roosevelt Avenue, (210) 534-8833. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed only for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Years Day. Admission is free and there is plenty of parking.
The Visitor’s Center is located next to the Mission San Jose. It has a gift shop, book store, and a small theater that shows a twenty minute film of the life in the mission. The park represents the authentic and historic architecture of the period set in beautiful landscaped grounds. The park also includes the historic Espada Dam and Aqueduct and the Rancho de las Carbras.
Mission San Jose is located at 6701 San Jose Drive. It was the largest and the most known in the 1720s and was known as “The Queen of the Missions.”
Founded by Fray Antonio Margil de Jsu’s, it was know as the model of Texas missions. Original wall carvings and the “Rose Window” is one of the most noted pieces of Spanish Colonial ornamentation in the country.
It also shows the construction of the time with the stairway to the belfry and the choir loft. The construction was by hand with no nails or pegs. There is a granary with flying buttresses, and a gristmill.
Handbook of Texas Online
SAN JOSÉ Y SAN MIGUEL DE AGUAYO MISSION. San José y San Miguel de Aguayo Mission, one of the five Spanish missions in San Antonio, was founded in the early eighteenth century as a result of a shift of missionary effort from East Texasqv to South Texas. In 1719 war between France and Spain resulted in the temporary withdrawal of Spanish missionaries from the East Texas missions. Father Antonio Margil de Jesús, president of the Franciscans of the College of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Zacatecas, went to San Antonio, where, on December 26, 1719, he requested that a new mission be founded. The Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo, governor of Coahuila and Texas, responded by issuing a decree on January 22, 1720, which authorized Capt. Juan Valdez, alcalde at the presidio of San Antonio de Béxar, to select a suitable site for the mission. On February 23 Valdez, assisted by Capt. Lorenzo García, presented a large tract of land on the east bank of the San Antonio River to Margil, downstream from San Antonio de Valero Mission. The land was assigned to about 240 Indians from an area not far south of San Antonio, mainly Pampopa, Pastia, and Sulujam, the first bands to reside at the mission. Margil entrusted their care to fathers Agustín Patrón and Miguel Núñez de Haro. Núñez moved the mission across the river probably before 1730, the year Brig. Gen. Pedro de Rivera y Villalón officially noted that the church and other structures were now on the west bank.
The Rose Window
by Mimi Swartz
The Rose Window at the San José Mission in San Antonio is known as much for its mystery as for its beauty.
It is known that when the Rose Window was made in the 1770s, nothing of its scale and intricacy existed in the United States. The window embodied the extravagant dreams of the Franciscan friars who commissioned it. Traveling north from Mexico in search of converts, those men made few concessions to the frontier: they taught the Indians not just to farm, tan hides, and honor God but also to play the trumpet and violin. When it came to architecture, the friars wanted the mission’s stone carvings to be as sophisticated as anything found in New Spain and imported the finest Mexican artisans to do the work. “No one could have imagined there were such good artists in so desolate a place,” remarked one visiting friar in a letter from the mission.
The biggest riddle of all is why the Rose Window is so named. It is not, as is sometimes assumed, related in any way to traditional rose windows, the round, complex stained glass versions that bathe medieval European churches in comforting hues. San José’s window is proudly plain in comparison, and the light it throws is painfully sharp—a New World light, for people willing to see life as it is, not as it should be. It is also unlikely that the window is so identified because there are roses carved into the stone. Various theories over the years have posited that the plants are more likely to be pomegranate or acanthus.
For quite some time it was thought that the proper name for the Rose Window might be Rosa’s Window, in honor of a story that has been embroidered for generations. In the most elaborate version, a noted Spanish sculptor named Pedro Huizar, charged with carving a religious window at San José, instead used his considerable talent to carve a monument to his lovely sweetheart, Rosa. When the window was complete, he sent for his love—who died in a shipwreck on her way to New Spain. Huizar spent the rest of his life celibate and penitent, carving the religious portal above the entrance to the church.
The story is nice but unlikely. According to a National Parks Service study completed in 1981, Pedro Huizar was born in Aguascalientes, Mexico; he was married twice and had at least three children. He did live and work at San José, but as a carpenter and a surveyor, and he didn’t get to the mission until the 1790s, twenty years after the Rose Window was finished. The theory these days is that the window was named after Saint Rosa of Lima, the first saint of the New World.
22 February 1931, San Antonio (TX)
Here in 1720 he founded Mission San Jose De Aguayo, familiarly known as the Second Mission. This mission was called San Jose De Aguayo in honor and memory of the Governor of Texas Marquis San Miguel De Aguayo. Doubtless Mission San Jose is the most beautiful of all the missions. She is, indeed, the “Queen of the Missions.” The facade is a veritable riot of art and beauty. The world-famed south window is still considered by far the finest gem or architectural ornamentation existing in America today.
24 February 1933, San Antonio (TX) Light, “San Jose Once Granary, Says Professor,” pg. 7, col. 1:
The bounty and the industry of the “queen of the missions” was graphically sketched by Dr. (Carlos—ed.) Castaneda.
OCLC WorldCat record
San José, queen of the missions
by John Ilg
Type: Book; English
Publisher: San Antonio, Tex., Franciscan Fathers, ©1936.
31 May 1941, Chester (PA) Times, pg. 12 photo caption:
HISTORIC—Established in 1720 as “the queen of all the missions of New Spain,” the 200-year-old San Jose de Aguayo mission at San Antonio, Tex., has been designated by Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes as the San Jose Mission national Historic site. It will be administered jointly by the National Park service, the Catholic archbishop of San Antonio, the Texas state parks board, the Bexar county commissioner’s court and the Conservation society of San Antonio.
OCLC WorldCat record
San José Mission : queen of the missions, San Antonio, Texas
by Ethel Wilson Harris
Type: Book; English
Publisher: [San Antonio : s.n.], 1942.
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