We headed out to explore the San Antonio Mission Trail. We wanted to check out the camping at Lake Calaveras, SE of San Antonio, so we did the trail from the outer most mission, up to the Alamo in downtown San Antonio.
First stop, Mission Espada. All the missions are located near the San Antonio River. They were established in the mid 1700s as the Spanish sent in Missionaries to teach the natives how to live and worship like the Spaniards and to ultimately be independent.
No one is sure why the arch over the door is shaped they way it is, but it makes this church unique.
Most of the churches in the missions are still in use today. They are quite plain compared to many Catholic churches I have visited. Many of the people who live in and around the old missions are descendents of the original inhabitants.
Mission San Juan. This was one of the larger missions, trading their surplus fruits and vegetables to people as far away as Louisiana and Mexico City. Each of the missions also supported a ranch which was located several days away from the mission itself.
The monks had the natives build an extensive aquaduct system to provide water for crops. This dam was built in the mid 1700s and is still in use today. It was originally 270 feet long and diverted water into the 4 mile long irrigation ditch.
Mission San Jose. This was the largest of all the missions and has been mostly restored so visitors can see how the missions actually looked some 250 years ago.
They are currently in the process of restoring some of the intricate work over the doors of the church.
This was the least restored of all the missions. We could not enter the church itself as Mass was going on. It is one of the missions which still functions as an active Catholic church.
And finally, the Alamo. Most people remember the Alamo as the place Davy Crocket was killed, but it was also one of the original missions. Only later was it used as a military fortress when General Santa Anna was fighting Texas.