Brief details of the five San Antonio missions:
The Alamo (Mission San Antonio de Valero)
Most of the original grounds and buildings of The Alamo have long since disappeared beneath the San Antonio streets. The central church remains, plus various outbuildings now used as a museum, and a small pretty garden with cacti and other large plants. The Alamo is always very busy, with thousands of people visiting each day, and together with the nearby Paseo del Rio (The River Walk), is the most popular attraction in town.
Three miles south of the centre, the complex sits back from the road in a quiet, leafy residential area with an acre of lawn and gardens. The mission was one of the three moved in 1731 from unprofitable lands in east Texas. New buildings nearby do not detract from the attractively aged appearance of the central church, which is distinctly Spanish in design and has needed very little restoration over the years.
Mission San José
The largest, most impressive and best preserved of the 5 missions, San José was founded in 1720 and retains the original enclosing wall and all associated outbuildings. The church is 15 miles from the city centre and situated in a less developed area, surrounded in most directions by trees and grassland around the river. Quite extensive reconstruction has taken place after the structure fell in to disuse in the nineteenth century.
Mission San Juan Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano has a smaller scale church with several buildings, some ruined, with most of the walled compound intact. The mission is set in a quiet area, 0.2 miles from the river and is rather sad and muted in appearance. The main church has a distinctive profile, typical of Mexico, especially the simple, stark bell tower. Irrigation made the nearby lands especially fertile, and some of the system of ditches and canals are still in use.
This is the southernmost church, surrounded by woodland in a peaceful, rural setting although just 200 yards from the busy 410/281 ring road. This is the oldest mission in Texas, originally founded by the Neches River in 1690, then moved to its present location in 1731. Nearby is the Espada Aqueduct, in use since 1740 and protected as a National Historic Landmark.