Is San Antonio a friendly city

The San Antonio missions

TexasSan Antonio

With the Mission Concepción, Mission San José, Mission San Juan, Mission Espada and the well-known Mission San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo), San Antonio has the largest collection of Spanish colonial architecture in North America. These were built under the Spanish flag in the 18th century to convert the Native Americans to Christianity.

San Antonio Spanish Colonial Missions

The Spanish missions are Relics of the Texas War of Independence, because of which cultures merged with one another, national borders shifted and world politics changed permanently.

The most famous of them The Alamo, is today the landmark and icon of the Texan War of Independence against Mexico in 1835/1836 and was converted into a fort at that time. The other four missions are available as San Antonio Missions National Historcal Park under the administration of the National Park Service and are still active Catholic parishes to this day.

Due to their historical importance and their well-preserved architectural condition, the buildings are now one of the most popular attractions in Texas, attracting millions of tourists every year. During the tour, visitors can experience firsthand the central importance of this part of history for the people of the region.

All missions except for the Alamo are still today active Roman Catholic parishes and in some cases serve the descendants of the former settlers.

The story of the San Antonio missions

The missions and fortresses in San Antonio indicate the strong Spanish influence during the colonization of this region. The Spanish-Moorish style of architecture and the ornamentation of the mission buildings, along with the precious legacy of the descendants of the original Indians of the missions - it all testifies to the legacy of the Spanish Empire from A.D. 1700.

Located in the heart of the Texan city of San Antonio, the Spanish missions play a key historical role. They are contemporary witnesses of the Texan War of Independence, due to which cultures merged with one another, national borders shifted and world politics changed permanently.


The missions were founded by Franciscans in the early 18th century. As the largest collection of Spanish colonial architecture in North America, the Spanish built it in the early 18th century five missions, including Mission Concepción, Mission San José, Mission San Juan, Mission Espada, and Mission San Antonio de Valero (also known as the Alamo).

The Spanish government sent missionaries to convert the locals to the Catholic faith and at the same time to train them to be good citizens of the Spanish kingdom. Spain hoped to consolidate its interests in the New World while at the same time protecting itself against the penetration of the French from the east (from Louisiana).

Life in the missions

The Franciscans taught the Indians the Spanish language as well as the Catholic faith. They lived and worked in the missions and learned new professions such as bricklayer, carpenter, weaver, blacksmith and farmer. To defend the missions, they were also given weapons. They learned to catch the free-range cattle (mesteños) to become ranchers and cowboys (vaqueros). Much knowledge that American cowboys only learned in the 18th or 19th centuries was already being used by the vaqueros around 1700.

The Indians

The Indians of the missions came from hunters and nomads of the region, who were called "Coahuiltecans" by the Spaniards. To defend the missions, for example, they were relocated from the Rio Grande and Red River valleys.

To live in the missions, the Coahuiltecans gave up their way of life. They sought protection from the raids of the Comanches and Apaches. Behind the walls of the missions, they found safety from their enemies, but fell victim to European diseases such as measles and chickenpox. Nearly 70% died. This high mortality rate led to a constant search for new offspring.

The missionary experience in the present

Located on the banks of the San Antonio River, the missions are in close proximity to each other within a radius of only 11 kilometers. Due to their decades of history, they radiate a past that connects the traditions of the Indians with those of the Spaniards. Over time, they belonged to both Mexico, the Republic of Texas and, now, the United States.

The settlements are both the cradle of Texan history and a unique natural monument. They significantly shape the cityscape of San Antonio, the seventh largest city in the USA, and are a melting pot of Latin American, Indian and Western cultures.

Several million guests visit the protected historical site every year. All but the Alamo are still active Roman Catholic parishes today and in some cases serve the descendants of the former settlers. There are many possibilities to immerse yourself in the time of colonial Spain, whether visiting a fair with Mexican folk music, a walk between the missions or a self-guided tour.

The “River Walk” promenade along the San Antonio River, lined with gardens, connects the five missions with the city's hotels, restaurants and cultural institutions. The missions can be reached on foot during a hike, on a bike and in some parts even by kayak.

A self-guided tour gives you a good insight into Texan history during the Spanish colonial era. This has shaped the image of the city as well as the Mexican influences, which are clearly noticeable in San Antonio, and which have made the multicultural, friendly city what it is today.

On the trail of the past 300 years

Due to the limestone facades and picturesque bell towers, the missions radiate a bygone age. All missions are free of charge and open to the public. On guided tours, visitors walk in the footsteps of the past and experience centuries of history by visiting residential quarters, churches and the Espada aqueduct, which was built by Franciscan monks and is still in use today.

Experience the history of the Alamo

Mission San Antonio de Valero
The famous mission Alamo, a former mission station converted into a fort, was the scene of the fighting in the Texas War of Independence. Today the shrine, a restored church building of the Spanish mission station, commemorates the fallen of the Battle of Alamo. Relics from this period can be viewed in the Long Barrack Museum. An audio tour explains the exhibits and historical buildings. During a visit, the battle cry of the time "Remember the Alamo“With which the Texans won the war, to new life.

Mission Concepción

Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción de Acuña
The beautiful Church of Mission Concepción was built in 1755. The mission is only partially restored. You can still see some light colored frescoes that were painted in the 17th century, such as the face of the sun in the library.

Mission San José

Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo
In 1777 a traveler described this mission as the most beautiful and mightiest he had seen in the American West. The San José Mission contains some of the most elaborate limestone statues found in American colonial collections. Some statues, the outer wall, as well as the roof vault and the dome of the church have been restored. Most of the restoration work was made possible with government funds in the 1930s. The facades were not restored, although some repairs were needed from time to time.

The museum of the “Queen of Missions” exhibits artifacts that explain various tasks of the missionaries. The film, “Gente de Razón” (in German: rational people), runs every half hour in the cinema. It tells the story of the 18th century residents of southern Texas and their role in the colonization of New Spain.

Mission San Juan Capistrano

The San Juan Capistrano Mission was first established in east Texas and moved to its current location in 1731. Here the Indians were more willing to do missionary work. The environment is quieter than in the other missions in the city. San Juan is located on the banks of the San Antonio River.

Mission Espada

Mission San Francisco de la Espada
As in all missions in the park, services are still held in this picturesque mission south of modern San Antonio.

Still functional irrigation channels (acequias) on the site were developed in 1740. This irrigation system is still used today by the neighboring farmers. After secularization around 1820, the mission was taken over by the Mexican army. Many buildings, especially the bulwark, were built or restored during the occupation.

UNESCO world heritage

UNESCO has declared the five missions from the Spanish colonial era to be World Heritage. The appointment took place on July 5, 2015 during the 39th international meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in the World Conference Center in Bonn.

Already since 2007 Susan Snow, Archaeologist of San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, in the interests of the region to obtain the title of World Heritage by UNESCO:
“The San Antonio missions are a prime example of an intact mission system from the Spanish colonial era. They can be viewed as part of a hike along the San Antonio River, as it is only seven miles apart. Due to their decades of history, they are also a symbol of the merging of different cultures. These influences, including indigenous, Spanish, and Mexican, shape today's Texas. The resulting intercultural exchange is the basis of our immigration country, the great melting pot of cultures. "

The San Antonio missions are administered by the National Park Service, more information is available at