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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.

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.

Sources:

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

Comments

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 31, 2020:

Hi Mary,

I am pleased that you enjoyed learning about this particular mission in San Antonio. Happy New Year to you also! I hope that you enjoy the year ahead with good health and many blessings.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on December 31, 2020:

Thank you for writing about this mission. I always find them interesting as they influenced so much life in the area when they were founded. Hope you have a wonderful new year.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 27, 2020:

Hi Devika,

I am pleased to be able to inform you about this historical site in San Antonio. It is fun getting to see all of those old missions. Thanks for your comment.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 27, 2020:

Peggy WAn interesting insight to the historical site. I had no idea of this and so glad you share it.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 25, 2020:

Hi Linda,

I am pleased that you enjoy armchair traveling with me. Merry Christmas! Enjoy the balance of this year, and wishing you an even better one to come.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 24, 2020:

This sounds like another very interesting place to visit. I always enjoy reading about places that you’ve visited.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 23, 2020:

Hi MG,

The Alamo is surely one of the most famous of the San Antonio missions. Unlike this one, the land around the Alamo is built up with the downtown buildings. I am pleased that you enjoyed learning about this historical site. Thanks for your comment.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on December 22, 2020:

A fascinating account of a historical site. You have painted a vivid picture. Just brought to my mind the film The Alamo with John Wayne.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 22, 2020:

Hi Ruby Jean,

I was surprised to read that about him also. Despite that, he was named a saint. The mission is an interesting place to visit. Thanks for your comment. Merry Christmas!

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on December 22, 2020:

I was surprised to read that the priest caused Jewish deaths. How sad that is. Your article was informative and interesting. I would love to take the tour at the mission. Well done..

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 22, 2020:

Hi Manatita,

I left a link at the bottom of the article that tells more about the saint. Many things have been done in the name of religion that do not always fit the ideals of what religion should encourage us to be.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 22, 2020:

Hi FlourishAnyway,

Yes, whether the missions were in Texas, California, New Mexico, or elsewhere, the purpose was the same. I hope that we can all get back to doing more traveling after the pandemic is behind us. In the meantime, we can enjoy virtual traveling. Stay safe, and stay well!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 22, 2020:

Hi Ann,

I am sure that you will want to see the photos when you can view this on a larger screen. The photos that I had taken were not as good, so I used ones in the public domain to show this historical site.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 22, 2020:

Hi Chitrangada,

While much of Mission San Juan Capistrano is in ruins, there is enough of it to see how people lived in earlier times. I am pleased that you enjoyed this virtual trip. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 22, 2020:

Hi Rosina,

I am pleased that you enjoyed learning about this historical site in San Antonio. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 22, 2020:

Hi Bill,

If you ever travel to San Antonio, be sure to visit all of the missions. It is worth the time to see them. I am glad that this was of interest to you.

manatita44 from london on December 22, 2020:

There's something alluring about old traditional sites and the video and music explores this very well. You say Mission San Juan Capistrano in San Antonio, or rather the Saint himself, was anti-Jewish? Does not go well with the devout, the God-seeker.

It has been said that many of the Saints were not Realised. Good souls yes, but some lacked the compassion of a Buddha, Krishna or Christ. A mere matter of growth, of course. The soul must shed off all its old shackles, before it can fully shine. Still, Great sites!

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 22, 2020:

What an interesting place to visit. When this pandemic is behind us, I'd love to take a road trip to Texas to take in some of the great historic and cultural sites you've profiled. I didn't know the purpose of the missions (had never thought of it).

Ann Carr from SW England on December 21, 2020:

Interesting, Peggy. I'm only on my iPad at the moment but when I get home I'll have another look as for some reason the photos are not showing.

Ann

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 21, 2020:

Nice informative article and great pictures. I like visiting historical sites, and the details you have provided, make it an interesting one to see.

Thank you for sharing this virtual trip.

Rosina S Khan on December 21, 2020:

It was interesting to read about "The Mission San Juan Capistrano" and Saint John Capistrano. Great history behind them. Loved it. Thanks for sharing, Peggy.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on December 21, 2020:

Hi Peggy. I have been to The Mission San Juan Capistrano in California, but not the one in San Antonio. Would love to visit someday. Fascinating history.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 21, 2020:

Hi Liza,

That must have been fun being a student in Perugia, Italy. I was happy to share this information about the Mission San Juan Capistrano with you and others. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Hi William,

The history of the saint is interesting as well as this mission site that bears his name.

Liza from USA on December 21, 2020:

I was hook while reading the article as you've mentioned the name "St. John of Capistrano" and Perugia. I was in Perugia while I was a student in Italy. I like the photo you've shared so I can see the building and the surroundings. Great article, thanks for sharing!

William on December 21, 2020:

Great article about one of the missions in San Antonio. Even though we have visited them all, I never knew of the history going back to Italy.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 21, 2020:

Hi Pamela,

San Antonio is a fun city to visit. The Alamo gets many visitors, but these other missions are well worth visiting. I am glad that you liked learning about the Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 21, 2020:

Hi Val,

I am glad that you enjoyed learning about the architectural and historical significance of this site in San Antonio. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 21, 2020:

Hi Bill,

Catching these articles and being able to leave comments is a bit trickier these days. I'm glad that you caught this one in time. Merry Christmas to you and Bev, and give your four-legged babies some extra treats this week. (Smile)

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on December 21, 2020:

I have never visisted there, but I would love to see it. This is a very interesting article, Peggy.

i hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 21, 2020:

Hi Caren,

Amazingly, there are two missions with the same name. The one in California is probably better known. Thanks for being the first to comment.

Val Karas from Canada on December 21, 2020:

Peggy -- Looks like an interesting site to visit. Being a European by cultural background, born in a city over a millennium old, I am missing historical architecture on this continent. Your presentation of San Juan Capistrano is superb.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 21, 2020:

Hooray, I made it to your article before is semi-disappeared! A victory for me!

I've heard of this, of course, but I don't think I've ever seen it, and I certainly didn't know the history of it, so thank you for both. Loved the information and photos, my friend.

Have a fantastic holiday week, and Merry Christmas to you!

Caren White on December 21, 2020:

Thanks for this great article. I did confuse the two missions at first, so I appreciate your explanation of the difference. The history of St. John of Capistrano is fascinating. I'm putting this mission on my bucket list.

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