After our trip to Mission San Jose, we continued down the Trail to visit Mission San Juan and Mission Espada. I decided to combine the two for the purpose of this post simply because we did not get to spend as much time at each of these missions as we had at the others. By that point, it was later in the day, and the boys had already worn themselves out from all of their exploring and running around. I do want to point out, though, that, even though San Juan and Espada are smaller missions, they are unique and lovely in their own right and definitely should not be missed.
Mission San Juan
Originally named San Jose de los Nazonis, Mission San Juan Capistrano was re-named when it was transported from its first location in East Texas to its present spot on the San Antonio River in 1731. Its pristine white facade, striking against a cloudless blue sky, makes it stand out from the rest.
A simple wooden cross standing in a cactus patch is the first thing to greet you upon entering the mission grounds.
The beautiful church is surrounded by lush green farmland where the self-sufficient settlement once raised orchards, herded thousands of sheep and cattle, and grew peaches, pumpkins, grapes, and melons. In order to support the surrounding community, missionaries would trade extra goods. A fascinating plaque we came across valued the items carried on a typical covered wagon to the trading post at around $26,000 in today’s prices.
There is also an old burial site across from the church where missionaries and locals had been laid to rest, although the remains have since been moved.
After making our way around the circular path of the mission site, we heading back to the car to make one last stop at Mission Espada.
Dating back to 1690, Mission Espada is the oldest mission on the Trail. Like Mission San Juan, it was moved from East Texas to San Antonio in 1731, where its name was changed from San Francisco de los Tejas to San Francisco de la Espada.
The church is small and pretty on the outside, and on the inside, the atmosphere is peaceful and intimate. Our boys were struck by the life-like depiction of Jesus Christ on the cross.
After circling the mission grounds once, we decided to call it a day – a successful one at that!
Altogether, we only spent about 30 to 45 minutes at both San Juan and Espada, but we definitely could have stayed longer if nap-time hadn’t been calling our name.
The San Antonio Mission Trail ended up being a great and inexpensive way (admission is free!) to spend a morning learning more about and experiencing the local community that graciously hosts my husband’s duty station together as a family. I’m so glad we took advantage of the opportunity to visit the Missions in our time spent in San Antonio.
Have you ever toured the San Antonio Mission Trail? If so, what did you think? What was your favorite mission?