On a recent trip to San Antonio, my husband and I went on a self guided tour of some of the historic Missions that make up the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.
Specifically, we visited Mission San José, where the visitor's Center is located, Mission San Juan and Mission Concepción.
The park was established to preserve the chain of Spanish missions that were built along the San Antonio River in the 1700s.
We started our tour at Mission San Jose, where these photos were taken.
Around the visitor center and throughout the park, native landscape can be seen and there are impressive cacti and succulents, as well as other native plants which were shrugging off the heat and drought as if it were nothing.
There were informational signs throughout the park, illustrating what the buildings originally looked like, how they were used and detailing life within the Missions during that time.
This is what I meant by "impressive cacti and succulents." These were everywhere!
Mission San Juan is, I think, the most complete of the missions. Not only is the church intact (although it's currently undergoing interior renovations) but the surrounding walls, gates, Indian quarters etc. can still be seen.
Here's the front of the church.
Behind the church are the remains of the convento, where the missionary lived, which had an attractive garden growing in it.
The exterior walls of the Mission compound contained the Indian Quarters, storage rooms and fortifications.
I'm pretty sure this isn't original, but it certainly made a nice shady place to sit and people-watch for a while :-)
In fact, porches with climbing vines seemed to be quite popular.
The main gate was rather imposing, with heavy doors and a row of ports, I guess you would call them, through which marksmen could fire when necessary.
And what's that on the right?
Yup - more cacti, this time growing on a lean-to roof!
Mission San Jose also has a grist mill, now mostly reproduction, and a 270 yr old acequia, or irrigation system.
During this drought, there was virtually no water in the grist mill, although the acequia still held water, much to the delight of these birds.
Here are some snippets of information from the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park web site that you might find interesting:
* Spanish missions were not churches. They were Indian towns, with the church as the focus, where, in the 1700s, the native people were learning to become Spanish citizens. In order to become a citizen, they had to be Catholic; that is why the King of Spain sent missionaries to acculturate them.
* The four mission churches within San Antonio Missions National Historical Park are active catholic parishes, and hold regular services. They are open to park visitors during park hours, except for special services, such as weddings and funerals. (The church at Mission San Jose is currently undergoing renovations, but should be open again by the end of the summer).
And finally, I'll leave you with a couple of photos of plantings outside the Visitor Center.
Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.