Having first visited Mission Concepcion, our expectations were set pretty high for the second stop on our self-guided tour of the San Antonio Mission Trail, and we were not disappointed. Mission San Jose (San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo) is called “Queen of the Missions” for a reason. Founded in 1720 by Fray Antonio Margil de Jesus, the best known of the Texas missions (aside from the Alamo, of course) is also the largest, and it is still surrounded by its massive, beautiful stone walls.
Before entering through the gate, we stopped by the visitor’s center where there is a cute little museum and gift shop. Our boys enjoyed seeing a 3-D model of the missions laid-out along the San Antonio River, and we learned more about the Franciscan missionaries that traveled to Texas from Spain to live, work, and minister to the local Native Americans hundreds of years ago.
Once inside the gates, the mission grounds are spacious with plenty of room for little ones to run around and explore without getting into trouble, and the church, itself, is breath-taking. Below, you can see the legendary and beautifully detailed Rose Window (or Rosa’s Window), which is laced with mystery. It may have been named in honor of a woman named, Rosa, who was engaged to Juan Huizar, but no one knows for certain.
There was a service in session at the time of our visit, and the doors had been opened to accommodate an overflow of visitors. We didn’t get to go inside this trip, but maybe next time.
My favorite part of Mission San Jose had to be the simple, yet peaceful little garden that sits on the right-hand side of the church where you’ll see a wooden cross and arched doorways that lead off into the ruins.
Just like our visit to Mission Concepcion, the boys had a great time investigating the surroundings while chasing each other around.
As we walked through the shadows, I couldn’t help but wonder about the people who had come to serve and worship there over the centuries. I thought about the natives that been converted to Catholicism, and I thought about the Franciscan missionaries who’d sacrificed so much, leaving their home country for the wild and distant land of Texas, in the name of God, Spain, and Christianity. Talk about humbling.
I also loved the pretty (and slightly eerie) cherubs that had been carved into the stone pillars framing the doors on the back side of the church.
Once again, we spent about an hour at Mission San Jose. If you have limited time to visit the missions, I would definitely recommend putting San Jose at the top of your list.
Also, there’s a large picnic area behind the parking lot, which makes this a perfect spot to stop and have lunch after your visit, as it’s half-way through your tour of the San Antonio Mission Trail (if following along the map).