Skip to main content

Visiting Mission San Juan Capistrano: A Historic Site in San Antonio, TX

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Mission San Juan Capistrano in San Antonio, Texas

Mission San Juan Capistrano in San Antonio, Texas

History of Mission San Juan Capistrano

This mission has become a part of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Converting native Americans to Christianity was the focus of mission settlements.

Originally founded in eastern Texas in 1716, Mission San Juan was relocated to its current location in San Antonio in 1731. Like most other mission communities in the area, the people living in the Mission San Juan Capistrano pretty much became self-sustaining. Residents made their tools and clothing. Being near a branch of the San Antonio River, hand-dug canals helped to irrigate the fields. Crops were grown on site, and cattle raising took place outside of the defensive walls.

By 1756, there was a stone church, granary, and other buildings. But at some point, it was abandoned and did not prosper long term as many of the other missions did. Raiding tribes and disease may have been partially responsible for its failure.

In the 1930s, the WPA started some restoration, and more rehab by the archdiocese took place in the 1960s. Parts of the mission have been restored, and other portions have been unearthed and are in a rustic state. The main focal point of this mission exterior is the three-arched bell tower. Ongoing funding for restorations takes place for this mission even today.

The Mission Today

The church still serves as part of an active parish. Currently, during COVID-19, the masses are held outdoors and with social distancing rules in place.

A paved 0.3 mile Yanaguana Trail is near this mission and runs along the San Antonio River. It is a perfect way to enjoy some shaded and tranquil scenery while visiting there. You might also like to see the farm at the mission. The food raised there helps to furnish the San Antonio food bank.

Touring the Missions National Historic Park

The four missions which make up the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site are the following: Mission Concepción, Mission San José, Mission San Juan Capistrano, and Mission San Francisco de la Espada.

While those names might be unfamiliar, most people know about the Alamo. The Alamo, also a mission, is in downtown San Antonio. Surrounded by commercial buildings, it is not a part of this national historical park but certainly has a distinct history all its own.

Scroll to Continue

Read More from WanderWisdom

It is fun to take the missions tour when in San Antonio, and it can easily take place during part of one day by just following a map to the various sites. My husband and I have taken these self-guided tours several times.

Be sure and take sunglasses, some good walking shoes, and suntan lotion as well as water if visiting this and the other missions in the heat of the summer. Temperatures can get sizzling, so be forewarned.

In the video below, you can see the four missions with some undeveloped land surrounding them. It will also illustrate why you want some good walking shoes when visiting them.

Painting of Saint John of Capistrano

Painting of Saint John of Capistrano

Saint John of Capistrano

Don't confuse the Mission San Juan Capistrano in San Antonio with the famous one in southern California. They do, however, bear the same name. Capestrano is a small town in the Abruzzo region of Italy. The location is approximately in the center of the country.

Both missions' namesake was a Franciscan Catholic priest who came from Italy. The soldier priest later became St. John of Capistrano after being canonized.

His life took him in many directions. From his law studies to being a Governor of Perugia to becoming a prisoner, his life took a significant turn. When he became a Franciscan friar in 1425, he started attracting large crowds of people when he would preach. He spoke and wrote against heresy regarding Catholic church beliefs. Anti-Jewish sentiments of his caused the death and expulsion of Jews from many regions.

Amazingly, this priest was still leading a Crusade at age 70, which was a ripe old age for that date in time. Saint John of Capistrano died of bubonic plague in 1456. He is now known as the patron saint of military chaplains and jurists.

You can read much more about him in the source link at the bottom of this page.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Peggy Woods

Related Articles