This the first book on the Missions of Texas and covers three of the five missions located in San Antonio. With the exception of the Alamo all are functioning parish churches.
The Alamo is the most recognizable and is the cradle of Texas Independence. Ironically a place of peace became a symbol of bloodshed and death. A distinction should be made between a "Mission" and a "Presidio" in Mexican colonization. While both look similar and possessed similarities like a protective wall and a chapel there was a difference. The Mission was a place to "Christianize" the Indians, to educate and teach "modern" agricultural methods. The Presidio was a military installation, troops were garrisoned with the purpose to protect the mission and towns from enemy attack. Provisions for mounting cannons and gun ports were made in and around the fortress walls. It was common to have both a mission and a presidio in proximity of each other.
The Alamo had a very limited life as a mission. Founded in 1718 the first buildings were destroyed by a storm in 1724. Rebuilt the first stone chapel collapsed in 1756 and the second chapel, which is the one we know today, was never finished. In 1778 a disease epidemic depopulated the mission and the Alamo would spent its life as a temporary headquarters for soldiers. In Brackettville, Texas is the movie set made for John Wayne's movie "The Alamo." Its appearance is more what the Alamo looked like in 1836 complete with the missing roof arches that Mexican General Cos removed to make ramps for cannon positions. The scalloped roof was added in 1849 by the U.S. Army.
Today it is the most visited historic site in Texas. On my visit in March, hardly a high-tourist time, there was still a continuous stream of people standing having their pictures made in front of the edifice.
Mission Espada was originally located in East Texas near Alto. Mission Tejas was hard to defend as the French moved into East Texas, so the mission was moved to the San Antonio River closer to Mexico. It is a simple, small, mission that boasts a distinctive chapel door. Aqueducts were built at the missions to funnel water from the San Antonio River to the fields and crops. The Espada Aqueduct is the oldest irrigation system in the United States.
Mission San Juan was a poor mission due to lack of funding for building and a small land allotment for cattle. An official chapel was never built but the building intended as the granary was converted into a place of worship. You will notice the door is located on the side of the building and there are stone supports along the exterior. These supports increased the strength of the walls to support the weight of grain that would be stored inside. San Juan is a simple but proud church.
The only other original building is the "convento" or friars' quarters.
In Brackettville is the movie set built for John Wayne's movie "The Alamo."