Mission Concepción is a historic church and former mission in San Antonio, and is considered the best-preserved Spanish colonial structure in the U.S. Rich in beauty and history, it’s a perfect place to explore, contemplate, and reflect.
Like many pieces of history, its story is intriguing and a little sad.
The mission was established by Franciscan Friars in 1711, and later moved to San Antonio in 1731. The purpose of the mission was to convert local Native Americans to Catholicism and assimilate them into Spanish culture and practices.
The mission was intended to be a self-sufficient village with a granary and animal pens within the walls, and farmland surrounding the mission. This worked to a certain degree, but the Indigenous people were used to a nomadic lifestyle, which created a clash of cultures. They often deserted the compound, and were sometimes forcibly brought back.
The Indians also suffered from many diseases, and death at the mission was rampant. Mission records show that In 1762, while 792 new converts were baptized, tragically, 596 were buried.
In some ways, Mission Concepción was a failure. The indiginous people simply, in the end, did not want to live the Spanish way of life. The church was eventually secularized, and fell into disrepair.
But history is meant to be remembered and reflected on, and eventually Mission Concepción, like other missions in the area, was viewed as something worth preserving. Steps were taken to restore the building, and it resumed functioning as a church rather than a mission. Today, you can attend a traditional Catholic Mass service at Mission Concepción every Sunday.
Visiting Mission Concepción today is an enjoyable experience both for the historical intrigue and the striking beauty.
The church is most famous for its beautiful frescoes. Originally, both the interior and the exterior of the church were decorated with brightly painted frescos. While these frescos have faded over time and some of them have disappeared completely, you can still find traces of them on the facade. Inside, you can view some of the original artwork which was lovingly restored by experts in 1988, and others that were exposed during another restoration in 2010.
Along with the restored frescoes, Mission Concepción is famous for its “annual double solar illumination event.”
Every year on the feast day of the Assumption of Mary, two distinct beams of light shine into the church, one from a window, and the other from the dome of the sanctuary. The church is shaped like a cross, and one beam of light shines directly on the center of this cross. The other beam of light illuminates the face of the Virgin Mary, painted above the altar.
There is no cost to exploring this piece of history, and if you would like extra information on the history and significance of certain locations, you can download a free audio tour at worldheritageusa.com.
Mission Concepción is located at 807 Mission Rd, San Antonio, TX 78210. Plan your visit, learn and reflect on history, and enjoy the beauty of this magnificent structure.
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