I finally took a short weekend to get away during the break between UIL regional championships and Texas’ state championships and headed south to San Antonio.
Without a real plan, I headed out this morning to check out one of my favorite places in the world – Mission San Jose – with my camera in hand. (Problems with my video camera aborted my original plans to do some filming while here.)
Mission San Jose was established 295 years ago in 1720 by Spanish missionaries and took over 60 years to complete the church, massive surrounding walls, and other structures that mostly still exist today. When you arrive, it doesn’t look very impressive at all, but that’s because the tall stone walls hide an expansive interior.
Once you walk inside the main gate, it is very easy to imagine what it must have been like nearly three centuries ago as it very nearly resembles the original mission. The surrounding walls form the back wall for dozens of small rooms which housed Indians who lived inside the mission compound. (You can even enter a couple of these rooms to see just how they must have looked hundreds of years ago. Directly ahead you can can see the church across the grassy plaza where the outline of other long-gone building once stood.
The church itself is very beautiful. It’s not some little wooden church in the wilderness, but a large stone edifice built to last. If there is no event or church services being conducted, visitors are welcome to walk through the church itself. I have always found it hard to imagine how hard it must have been to construct such a building in the early 18th century in the middle of hostile Indian country.
Besides the exterior walls protecting the compound from raiding Indians, the church includes a large complex of living quarters for missionaries and a garden. The gravel walkways which once were covered next to the garden still bring images of friars quietly going about the business of daily life thousands of miles from home or perhaps engaging in quiet contemplation amongst the garden flowers.
I also traveled to the Mission Concepcion a little farther to the north. It is the largest unrestored stone mission in the United States and still holds services and supports a congregation (as do all the original Spanish missions in San Antonio except the Alamo).
Mission Concepcion is much smaller and has a different atmosphere compared to Mission San Jose. From the front is looks older, but was actually founded several decades later. There are some very interesting original frescoes which still exist on the walls and ceilings of the few remaining buildings.
A beautiful Saturday afternoon, of course, brought crowds to the missions which are run by the National Park Service, but it’s still easy to find places without tourists to get some beautifully framed photographs.
(For those interested, I shot these photos with my Canon 60D with a Sigma 17-50mm lens at Mission San Jose which was replaced by the Tokina 11-16mm lens at Mission Concepcion.)