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Multi-Part Tour through the Spanish Missions of San Antone, Part III September 13, 2017

Posted by Tantumblogo in Art and Architecture, awesomeness, Basics, catachesis, Christendom, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, history, religious, Society, Tradition.
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Sorry this tour got sidelined for far longer than I hoped or planned.  In late June one of my children set my work laptop down in a puddle of water (water they had been told to wipe up already!) and the fan sucked water up into the computer.  End result was a completely fried hard drive.  I had transferred all my mission pictures to the lap top some time before.

Fortunately I still had the originals on my phone, it just took me a long time to get them transferred.  I finally got around to that today, and so here is part 3 in the four part series, covering the largest of the four missions, Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo.

Of all the four missions, aside perhaps from Mission Espada, Mission San Jose was in the worst shape when San Antonio and local historical societies got serious about restoring them in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Indeed, the entire ceiling and the east wall collapsed during a Mass held there around the turn of the 20th century.  The Mission looked like this before meaningful restoration began:

Today the Mission is quite restored, which is both bad and good – it’s great that we have something to look at, and that the church is whole enough to offer Sacraments, but the down side is that we never know whether what we are looking at is authentic or not.  Fortunately, the west walls and the facade of the church remained standing, and these contained some of the most artistically significant elements.

Today, approaching the Mission from the parking lot, this is the view one finds:

The former refectory and cells for the religious who worked this mission are gone, but the outline of the structures remains:

Mission San Jose has by far the finest stonework, hand-carved, sometimes by natives, sometimes by artisans brought from Nuevo España (Mexico) into local limestone, of all the San Antonio missions:

An arrow slit to defend the church against hostile indians.  I kid, it’s a light for a very narrow circular stairway that leads up to the bell tower.

Moving around to the front of the church, we see what is probably the most elaborately carved stone facade on any mission in North America.  That is a historical treasure, even though many of the statues and individual flourishes had to be recreated to replace damage caused by vandalism over the years.  Horribly, incredibly, almost unanimously protestant soldiers in the Texas Revolution and, even more, the Mexican-American War of 1848 (American forces used the missions as storage facilities for grain and other logistics materials), used these irreplaceable pieces of art for target practice.  There is more evidence of damage inside the church proper.

The more detail one captures, the more amazing the artistry is:

Now moving inside the church proper, this is the overall view down the nave:

Let me tell you, that reredo is a massive improvement over what existed in Mission San Jose for decades, especially after the council. Then, there were simply bare stucco walls with a moderately sized – and none too artistically significant – table altar.  This new reredo was added a few years ago, I think under the impetus of then Archbishop Jose Gomez, and really transformed the church into something far more aesthetically pleasing.

The view back towards the choir loft:

This choir loft is still accessible and used during Mass.

I don’t know when these pews were fabricated, I don’t think they are anywhere close to original to the Spanish Mission period, but as a woodworker I was impressed with their craftsmanship nonetheless.  I would hazard they are in the vicinity of 90-100 years old.

I mentioned further damage inside the church itself.  The carved sconces at the juncture where the vertical beams meet the arched ones for the ceiling had extensive damage.  Several popes and saints had their heads shot off, as seen below:

This one was relatively intact:

Some closeups of the reredo.  Very nicely done.  Not real high on the color but the design with alcoves for Saints is very Spanish.  I love this as something for local traditionally-inclined parishes to adopt if they ever have the opportunity to do a remodel along orthodox/traditional lines (sorry for the blurriness in some images.  It was super-humid that day and going from the outside to the inside caused the camera lens to keep fogging up. I tried to wipe it clean but was not always successful):

They were getting ready for Pentecost, thus, the decorations.

Nice crucifix. The crucifix and statues are definitely Spanish colonial era polychrome, but I do not know if they are original or not.  Most original art not permanently affixed (and even some that was) was lost from the four missions during their century or so of near abandonment and neglect.

To gauge how much the reredo improved things, compare with this shot from the mid-2000s:

Night and day, no?  Plus, much additional artwork was returned from this stark, iconoclastic post-conciliar wreckovation.

That artwork includes some period paintings:

I love them both, one is such a great example of Spanish Colonial Catholic art, the other, I believe, is of much more recent vintage.

OK just a few more things.  A nice statue of Our Lady, unfortunately image is a little blurry:

And then finally, in what amounts to something akin to a side chapel, though it’s really used more today like a room for exhibits of certain kinds, is what I believe is a remnant of an old high altar that was probably chopped up in the post-conciliar period:

I had to stretch through a narrow space between some kneelers and a wall to get this shot.  Otherwise it was almost entirely blocked.

Or perhaps I am wrong, and this is a post-conciliar altar that used to be in the main church and got moved into this side chapel?  My gut says, though, that with this degree of detail, this is a more ancient altar, probably not original to the 1700s, but perhaps early- or mid-19th century?  The altar stone was obviously missing, but altars of primarily wood construction were not at all unheard of, especially in colonial environs.

I could find no one to give me the history of this altar. Most people either didn’t know what it was or knew nothing of its history.

I thought I had some more pics, especially of the re-created mission palisade and living quarters for natives, but I am not finding them now.

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Comments

1. Margaret Costello - September 17, 2017

Thanks for posting these:+) I like the reredo:+) It’s a gift to walk thru this type of history. Thank you for thinking of us and helping us share in our Catholic history:+) God bless~


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