Mission San Jose
Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo
As you pull into the parking lot at Mission San Jose, the mission is mostly obscured from view and you mainly see the massively proportioned mission walls, which serve as a very tangible reminder that the missions were constructed to be defensible. Located as they were on the outer fringes of the Spanish Empire to the south, they were the tools used to gain a foothold in the expansion toward the north.
The walls that surround the mission today were rebuilt in the 1930s, as were many of the structures. The church itself was mainly intact, although the dome and tower had collapsed.
After seeing Mission Espada and Mission San Juan, I was completely unprepared for the sheer scale of San Jose! I felt I was able to catch my first glimpse of life as it would have looked to the residents and also felt a sense of how comforting the view of those walls must have been to everyone living there.
At this mission, you have the opportunity to walk into living quarters built into the enclosing walls and to admire the high ceilings in the church. These missions must have seemed such an anomaly, located on the frontier and surrounded by native people with priorities so very different from the Spanish.
Visitors to San Antonio should ideally take the time to visit all five of the missions. Despite their similarities, it’s difficult to appreciate the historical role they played until you’ve experienced every one of their personalities. If, however, you only have time for one, I would recommend Mission San Jose.