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Multi-Part Tour through the Spanish Missions of San Antone: Part II, Mission Espada June 14, 2017

Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, Art and Architecture, awesomeness, Christendom, Ecumenism, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, history, sanctity, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.

The first part covered Mission Concepion, this post covers Mission San Francisco de la Espada.

I again will give some coverage of the general and liturgical history of the mission, while sharing a number of photographs I took.  Mission Espada – and in particular the chapel – fell into more complete ruins than just about any of the missions.  Mission San Jose experienced a horrific roof/wall collapse in the 1890s during Mass – no death toll was reported, but it gives an idea of the decrepitude into which these structures were allowed to slide.  When locals finally took notice of the significance of these decayed treasures, protestants played a significant role in funding and restoring all the missions.  Strangely enough.

The main facade of the chapel is really about all that is original to the structure.  Most of the rest of the building was replaced in the 20th century.  You can see at the top the local bricks which were made by natives and were used in the construction of this mission.  These are supposed to be some of the first masonry bricks made in Texas.

The door is an interesting shape and attracts a good amount of intention.  It is shaped almost like a keyhole.  I do not think the doors are original.  They are heavily weathered but being cedar I would guess they are somewhere on the order of 80-100 years old.  Again, most of the original doors, furnishings, statues, and even stone structure of the original missions was removed by locals – primarily the descendants of the natives who originally occupied the missions – for their own private use from the 1790s onwards as the missions were forcibly secularized by the Spanish government and the mission communities rapidly fell apart thereafter.

The bells are still functional, and these are the pulls they use to ring them at the start of Mass to this day.  I did not get a clear answer on whether the bells are original or not, but it was great to see a parish that still has real bells and uses them – though not for calling the Angelus, unfortunately.

Another shot showing the interior of the door and the pull cords for the bells.  The stucco interior is a 20th century replacement.

As I said, these chapels are still in regular use.  I had to go to Mission Espada and Mission San Juan twice, in the first case because a Confirmation? was going on, and the second because Mission San Juan is really only on Sundays for Mass and occasionally for special events.

But I’m a trooper, and went back the next day, Sunday, to visit the chapels when I knew they would be open but empty. You can get a sense for the small size of the chapels, this one, I would estimate, is about 3/4 the size of the local Carmelite chapel. Some Dallasites will know how small that is.

Mission Espada has been as thoroughly wreckovated as any of the missions.  While it is gratifying to see a tabernacle in all of them, altar rails and high altars were all removed at some point.

These statues are wonderful, and if not original to the mission they are close period pieces or excellent replicas.  I’m quite certain the statue of our suffering Savior is of Spanish Colonial origin, but I’ll get to that later.

Some kind of structure remains where the proper pre-conciliar altar would have been.  I saw these in two of the missions, a large stone or concrete block.  I am imagining it formed the basic structure of the original altars before they were removed.

Mission Espada contains no trace that I could detect of the original altar or altar rails, which is sad, since at least replicas of the originals or some kind of pre-conciliar replacement would have been in place during the general restoration of the 1920s-30s.

Beautiful statue of Our Lady.  I do love the polychrome.  I don’t what vintage the crucifix is, but it was also very pretty though shunted off to the side and largely blocked by flowers.

Sorry the lighting is so poor on this, even with flash the image was shrouded in shadows. This is a magnificent colonial era crucifix, or a great replica.  The hair would be real human hair, as was the custom min the Spanish colonies.  Polychromed, and possibly carved by local natives, whether they were original natives to these missions or not.  There was no one around to answer any questions about Mission Espada or any of the remaining art.

This is a glorious statue and so evocative of both the period and Spanish liturgical style generally.  The joints are bunched up because the arms can be repositioned for various poses, though I doubt anyone has dared to do that with this statue in many years.  Amazing that such craftsmanship could be achieved with nothing but hand tools.  I imagine all the interior mechanisms are wood.  I have no idea what condition they are in, or whether they have various fabrics with which to dress Our Savior for different festivals or liturgical periods.  I tend to think not.

I also don’t know how old these pews are – they look quite old and worn – but was again amazed by their quality given that they are probably at least a century or so old, and could be quite older.  Again, nothing but hand tools like chisels and awls made such sturdy, long-lasting pews.  Very impressive to an amateur woodworker like me.

Ceiling.  I just love how that aged cedar looks.

St. Francis.

Out of time, I’ll try to post more tomorrow.  And I plan on covering my favorite, the most traditional, liturgically, Mission San Juan Capistrano.

One thing that strikes me is that absolutely NONE of this would exist if the Church had the same attitude towards evangelization then that it has today.  The Church has truly been betrayed by her own, she is almost unrecognizable from her historical self.


1. NickD - June 15, 2017

Great posts on the missions so far. I grew up in San Antonio, and as with so many historical and even spiritual landmarks in one’s hometown, they just became a part of the local scene without particularly standing out. Add to that the fact that driving from my home to the missions would’ve been a trip in itself.

It’s awful to see the way these two chapels presented so far have been wreckovated, especially considering their restorations had been so recent. My gut tells me you’re on to something with the large block where the high altar would’ve been- it seems like some sort of foundation for all of the outer stonework.

Keep up the good work! I look forward to your post on San Juan Capistrano

2. David - June 15, 2017


Visiting missions is a good way to spend vacation time, and the cost is minimal too. About seven years ago, a friend of mine and I visited the four missions on the South side of San Antonio that you have covered in great detail. Many are within short drives of each other too and thanks for highlighting the altars, tabernacle, etc. ( I have been researching the last few months the minor seminary system, which was growing by leaps and bounds in the United States between 1946 and 1962. It’s been sad to read about the “wreckovations” that took place at many of these after 1968, and by 1980 nearly all of them were closed.)

I do recall around seven years ago taking a tour of San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio with a few friends (we attended Mass elsewhere that morning.) The statues inside are made of wood, because the original statues were destroyed (true story – the tour guide told us the statues were destroyed by a mentally challenged man who happened to be off his medication – a few days later, he was really embarrassed and apologized) and that is why sculpted wood statues replaced the originals at San Fernando Cathedral.

3. LaGallina - June 16, 2017

Hi Tantum,
Can you send me your email. I lost your new one when you switched jobs. I have a question about something New Age-y and I don’t know who to ask. I thought maybe I could either get your thoughts on it, or you could point me in the direction of someone to ask.

4. LaGallina - June 16, 2017

-…the missions were forcibly secularized by the Spanish government–

Why were they forcibly secularized by the Spanish government?

Tantumblogo - June 22, 2017

Why? Endarkenment anti-Church thinking penetrating into the monarchical government of Spain. This was roughly the same period when the Bourbon kings of Spain and Portugal demanded the suppression of the Jesuits. They wanted the money for themselves. They were resentful of the Church being more successful at colonizing new territories than the secular government. A general pattern of secularization and de-Christianization in Europe that eventually led to the French Revolution, and the same forces we see at work today. Weak Church leadership. Many reasons.

5. Mary Agreda - June 20, 2017

Greetings Tantamergo,

I have been a subscriber to your blog since March of 2014. I am in perfect concert with your views on our Catholic Faith. Please send me a link so that I may send you a private email. Thank you.


On Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 6:46 PM, A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics wrote:

> Tantumblogo posted: “The first part covered Mission Concepion, this post > covers Mission San Francisco de la Espada. I again will give some coverage > of the general and liturgical history of the mission, while sharing a > number of photographs I took. Mission Espada – and in ” >

Tantumblogo - June 22, 2017

larryr103@gmail.com is my email. Thanks!

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