Monday, February 13, 2012

More San Antonio

Well, it's been quite a while since I last posted because I've had limited internet access for the past week or so and I've been ill for a few days after that.  We've moved to a new location, with excellent internet access, so I'm going to catch you all up on what we've been doing.  So, get a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and prepare to be amazed (just kidding!).

There was so much to see in River City (San Antonio) that we had to return for another day.  At the end of the first day we had planned to come back that evening and ride the boats on the river walk.  Unfortunately, it started raining and it kept on raining for the rest of our visit.  So we'll have to come back another time to do that.

But we did get to see a few more things.  First we headed back downtown to see the San Fernando Cathedral.  It was  completed in 1750 and is the oldest cathedral sanctuary in the U.S.

The church contains the remains of those who fought at the Alamo:
Alamo remains

This day must have been field trip day for every Catholic school in San Antonio, as everywhere we went, there were hordes of children in school uniforms!  Here are some of them getting a blessing from the Pope or whatever he's called  :)

At San Fernando Cathedral

Finding the next destination, the Spanish Governor's Palace, was a little harder than it should have been.  I had read that the palace was named "the most beautiful building in San Antonio" by the National Geographic Society.  So, naturally, I was looking for something a bit different than it turned out to be:
Spanish Governor's Palace

The original parts of the building represented the last visual vestiges of the Presidio San Antonio de Bejar.  The Captain of the Presidio (military garrison) and his family lived in the home until the mid-1800s even though Spain had already lost control of Mexico and Texas.  The function of the building then changed to commerical in the 1870s through the 1920s, being used for a variety of businesses including a pawn shop, produce store, saloons and a clothing store.  Today, it's nice, but most of the "restoration" that was done in 1929 - 1930 added a lot of non-original features to more fully represent what it might have looked like.  But it was still worth seeing.


Loft/storage area

 Next it was off to explore the missions.  San Antonio missions are a National Historical Park that follow, I think, about an eight mile trail along the San Antonio river.  We had already seen the Alamo, which was, in fact, a mission before it was a battle site.  The visitor center was located kind of in the middle of the trail, so we started there and toured the Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo, more commonly refered to as Mission San Jose.

It was fantastic!  The entire wall of the mission has been restored, the church is intact and the outbuildings have been restored as well.  There was also a diorama showing the whole mission and going through what each area would have been used for.  It was easy to imagine a day in the life in those times.  Very educational displays and explanations throughout.
Exterior wall

Some of the stonework

Another part of a wall
Door to Indian quarters

Interior fireplace

Looking from one side of the mission to the other  to try to show how big it was

Indian quarters making up two walls of the mission

Reinforced walls outside of the granary

Cooking oven outside Indian quarters
The church 
The bell tower

Looking out a gate (Sid said it must have felt like a prison to the Indians)
Traces of the original fresco

The Rose window

Kind of hard to see, but very intricate carving on the window
Decorative accents inside one room

A sink
Interior stove and oven

One thing that I found amazing was the fact that at each of the churches in the five missions along the Mission Trail is still used to this day, with services every Wednesday and Sunday in accordance with Catholic traditions.  I guess because of this, the inside of the church was beautiful:
Church ceiling

Over a door inside the church

Behind the altar

Of course, not all of the items at the mission were authentic to the period (I suspect, anyway).
Lighting, really?

Wonder if the Indians could read English

This might have made doing those carvings a bit easier!

I learned that all the beautiful carvings in stone or wood have particular meanings.  Since missionaries and mission Indians came from diverse cultures, the communication of the concepts of Christianity was difficult.  The decorations adorning the church were tools to teach the faith.  For example, a heart represented love, piety, understanding, courage, devotion, sorrow and joy, while a pomegranate symbolizes the church because of the inner unity of countless seeds in one fruit.  Angels were heavenly messengers and shells represented baptism.

We probably spent at least two to three hours at the first mission, but the visitor center indicated that Mission Concepcion was the mission that was most authentically restored.  So we decided to see that next.  It was a bit of a disappointment, because the only remaining structure was the church section itself and a few rooms around it.  But it did have the most vivid fresco painting that we saw at any of the missions we went to.
Mission Concepcion

Front door

Interior fresco from 250 years ago

They frescoed the walls to look like stone

Part of Mission Concepcion

Once again, the church building itself is still used for services and weddings and such.  The docent at this mission told us that the National Park designation is a bit deceiving, as the land belongs to the Catholic church, but the buildings fall under the National Park Service.  So anyone using the facilities has to coordinate between the two entities to make sure everyone stays happy.

By now, we had seen three of the five missions and it seemed like enough for this trip.  So the next stop would be Market Square for a little retail therapy.

Market Square is a two-block long market including El Mercado, a typical market from the interior of Mexico, art galleries, restaurants, bars and a great place to people-watch.  It has the usual tourist-y items for sale.  We poked into all the shops and but only bought a ceramic toucan to keep my Santa Fe parrot company!  They are decorating the trailer for now.
A fountain in Market Square

Mural in Market Square

Street art outside El Mercado
Too bad about the broken arm

After all this walking we were really tired by now.  So ended another great day (not weather-wise though) in San Antonio.

Next we'll be leaving San Antonio and moving on....See you then!

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