Immerse yourself in 18th century daily life
Called the “Queen of the Missions,” Mission San José drew praise as far back as 1778 when Fray Juan Agustin Morfi noted it in his journal. “It is, in truth, the first mission in America,” he wrote. “… in point of beauty, plan and strength … there is not a presidio along the entire frontier line that can compare with it.”
That beauty and strength is evident today in the walls along the grand open plaza, the workshop areas, the kilns, granary, living areas and water wells interspersed throughout the spacious landscape of this largest Spanish Mission in Texas.
Mission San José is often the starting point for visitors to the mission trail in San Antonio because it is home to the modern Visitor Center. A small museum, interpretive center, gift shop, and theatre where a short film is shown every 30 minutes, all welcome guests to the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.
Eighteenth century technology is still at work in the grist mill where mission residents once milled the grains grown in their fields. Trained experts can operate the mill, which is still powered by a mill race fed by water led through an acequia.
The façade of the impressive church is punctuated by an array of intricate floral and shell carvings. The single bell tower is adorned with three-dimensional carvings of saints. The famous Rose Window on the otherwise bare sacristy wall draws curious visitors, not only for its groundbreaking pattern of four carved arches protruding from a centered rectangle, but also for its mysterious origins. Considered one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in North America, the iconic shape, known as a quatrefoil, can be seen in logos and signs throughout the United States, an homage to the colonial craftsmen who called the Missions in San Antonio home.