Mission San Juan Capistrano
The Mission San Juan Capistrano is one of five missions established near San Antonio, Texas by the Catholic religious orders of Spain chartered with spreading Christianity among the local families in the 1700’s. Today, the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park includes the historic structures of the Mission San Juan Capistrano.
The Mission San Jose de los Nazonis was founded in East Texas in 1716, but abandoned in 1719 due to French pressure. Re-established a few years later, it moved to the current Texas location in March 1731. With tragic beginnings, this mission has endured many hardships. When the mission was established near the San Antonio River, it was renamed to avoid confusion with the nearby Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo. The mission’s new name was in honor of the Saint John of Capistrano.
Indian Outreach Missions
In 1745, 41 Indian families lived on the grounds, a total of 163 residents. Local brush, covered in a mud-based plaster, was the primary building material. The chapel had a straw roof. The plaza included the customary Indian quarters, similar to a 2-room apartment with a living area and a sleeping area. In addition, this mission had a stone granary and several work areas. By the mid-1700’s the mission was prosperous. The missionaries added a wood-roofed chapel made of stone, strengthening the core or the structure. The chapel has an open belfry. This belfry has spaces for three bells, representing a trinity formation.
In the late 1700’s the mission population diminished significantly. By 1789, there were only 58 Indians at the San Juan mission. A few years later, the mission became a subsidiary of Mission San Francisco de la Espada and closed in 1825. San Fernando Church in San Antonio took possession of the chapel and the land was auctioned.
Restoration of Mission San Juan Capistrano
In 1902, Adina De Zavala obtained a five-year lease on the chapel and started restoring the buildings on behalf of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. In 1934, a group of federally funded workers repaired the mission site and re-roofed the chapel. Years later, a renewed interest in preservation led to the reconstruction of the priests’ quarters. The HemisFair ’68, held in San Antonio, generated tourist traffic to the mission locations.
Today, Mission San Juan Capistrano holds weekly church services in the chapel. Visitors can walk the grounds and learn about the history of the area and the construction of the missions that served the local Indian population. I visited these missions on a custom tour, which was a solid foundation for understanding San Antonio’s history and culture. Each mission building offered a unique element, but the Mission San Juan Capistrano’s beautiful bell tower captured my heart.
I visited these missions on a custom tour, which was a solid foundation for understanding San Antonio’s history and culture. Each mission building offered a unique element, but the Mission San Juan Capistrano’s beautiful bell tower captured my heart.