San Antonio Franciscan Missions

Date of Submission: 30/01/2008
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
U.S. Department of Interior
State, Province or Region:
Texas
Ref.: 5247
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

Mission San Antonio (The Alamo)  98°29'8.804"W 29°25'30.464"N

Mission Concepcion  98°29'30.007"W 29°23'29.999"N 

Mission San Jose  98°28'44.777"W 29°21'43.063"N

Mission San Juan  98°27'15.875"W 29°19'55.07"N 

Mission Espada  98°27'1.101"W 29°19'3.228"N

This is a serial grouping of five Spanish Roman Catholic mission properties that includes a total of some 80 structures built in stages from 1724 to 1782 on "open village" plans within walled compounds.  They are located in and near the modern city of San Antonio, Texas, which grew up around them. Except for San José, the mission churches and some ancillary buildings were designed by Antonio de Tello, a master mason and sculptor, after 1740.  The latter four of the five are included in San Antonio Missions National Historical Park; their churches are in religious use.  The fifth, the Alamo, is under the charge of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas as a historic site. 

The missions are in order from north to south (using popular short forms of their names):

Mission San Antonio (The Alamo): The distinctive mission church and convento (long barracks) are the principal remaining features.

Mission Concepción: The stone church on a cruciform plan and several rooms of the friars' precinct (convento) are the most important elements at this compound.

Mission San José:  This elaborately decorated stone church dominates its mission compound.

Mission San Juan:  Includes both the present church and several auxiliary structures, as well as    separated support sites--the San Juan Dam, the San Juan Acequía (irrigation ditch), and the San Juan Labores (fields):

Mission Espada:  Includes the mission church, auxiliary structures, and separated support sites: the Espada Dam, Espada Aqueduct, Espada Labores, Espada Acequía, and Rancho de las Cabras, the latter of which was a grazing ranch, with "mini-mission" compound, now in ruins, near Floresville in Wilson County.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Franciscan missions of San Antonio are a remarkable concentration of surviving structures that are a spectacular representation of the Spanish colonial influence in the New World.  The religious, economic, and technological system instituted by the friars transformed a nomadic aboriginal society into a settled one, which in turn became the basis of an ethnically diverse society that continues to influence what is today a major city.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Except for the Alamo, which has undergone significant restoration because of the ravages of war and time, the missions' churches are essentially intact, remaining in their original use.  The degree of intactness of the auxiliary structures around them varies somewhat, with a higher degree of integrity at the more southerly complexes.

Comparison with other similar properties

There were a number of Spanish Mission complexes built in the 16th-18th centuries in the present southern and southwestern United States.  There is no comparable group surviving that is as early and relatively well preserved.  It has been suggested that properties in other southwestern States might be added to this serial proposal, notably in a 1980s study of the topic by

US/ICOMOS, but it is believed that this group would qualify on its own and can therefore be nominated as the first element of such a possibly larger serial nomination.  Because the San Antonio missions are an extension of a network of missions that extended from northeastern Mexico, it is strongly recommended that the Mexican government be invited to consider Catholic religious structures for inclusion in a binational nomination, including but by no means limited to the five Sierra Gorda missions already included as a group in the World Heritage List.  

The extraordinary scope of the Spanish missionary efforts is probably most effectively demonstrated by including well preserved examples on various continents and in different countries.  Jesuit missions in South America are already also included; the addition of these sites in the United States would help in that endeavor.