Remember the Alamo is a rally cry that even non-Texans have heard, but here in Texas the iconic building is not just remembered, but enshrined as a memorial to the Texas spirit. It’s hard for outsiders to understand how a battle that was, well…utterly lost, can be the shining moment in the story of the Lone Star State, but it was in the loss that the true Texas fortitude can be understood. Consider that the 189 Texians inside the Alamo (mostly volunteers and minutemen), fought for 13 days against 6,000 well outfitted and trained Mexican soldiers and didn’t lose a single man. These same men, except one, vowed to fight to the death and heroically gave their lives in the final siege on the Alamo. In the ultimate “taking one for the team” move, the defenders of the Alamo bought time for the mounting Texian army which was then buoyed by their sacrifice to resoundingly defeat Santa Anna’s army in 18 minutes at the Battle of San Jacinto. Their all out grit and Texas-sized resolve is the bedrock for the pride that ripples across our hills and plains today.
The Alamo is most visited site in Texas, as more than 2.5 million visitors stand before the old stones to pay tribute to the courage of the defenders and hope to catch a bit of that spirit that spread like wildfire across our great state. Many of those visitors are surprised to learn that the Alamo is just one of five remaining Spanish missions in San Antonio. The other remaining missions are within a five mile radius of the famed Alamo, and each offers a snapshot of the glory days of the Spanish missions and has its own stories to tell.
Mission San Jose
Known as the “Queen of the Missions,” this is the largest and the most completely restored of the San Antonio missions. Missions were not simply a place of worship, but an entire community, and you can easily visualize how people would have lived and worked inside the protective stone walls that surrounded the church.
The church's carvings are among its most notable features and the famous "Rose Window" is considered one of the finest pieces of Spanish Colonial ornamentation in the country.
Another unique feature of the property is the first gristmill in Texas, still operational and able to grind 600-800 pounds of flour, just as it did over two centuries ago.
Standing proudly since 1755, these striking stone walls are the oldest unrestored church in the United States. In its glory days, the church was encased with brightly colored, geometric frescos, but these have long since worn away.
This mission is the only of the five that did not ever lose its original roof, so the paintings and frescos inside the building can still be enjoyed.
You can imagine the isolation of the Spanish missions of the 1700’s as you walk the sparse landscape of the Mission Espada. The most notable feature of this mission is the only surviving Spanish aqueduct to be found in the United States. The mission utilized ancient Moorish techniques to bring water from the San Antonio River to irrigate 3,500 acres of land and grow a wide variety of crops throughout the year.
Visiting the Missions of San Antonio
The four existing missions outside of the Alamo are owned and operated by the National Park service and are accessible to guests free of charge. Each mission is unique in its own right and provides a glimpse of mission life that cannot truly be understood by only visiting the Alamo. Each mission is still a functioning Catholic parish, and you can attend modern services in these ancient buildings each Wednesday and Sunday.