Mission San Antonio de Valero, the first of the five San Antonio-area missions, was established in 1718 by Franciscan priest Antonio de Olivares.
The Alamo Mission's original name honors St. Anthony of Padua and the Spanish viceroy to New Spain, Baltasar de Zúñiga, the Marquis of Valero, who granted permission to build the mission.
Mission San Antonio de Valero was relocated twice before missionaries settled on its current location in 1724. St. Joseph's Catholic Church on E. Commerce Street presently occupies the mission's probable second site, while the original location may have been just north of Piazza di Colombo Park in northwest Downtown.
Construction on the current Alamo Chapel, the site's second, began in 1758, but was never completed. According to Texas A&M University, the intended design of the Chapel bared a resemblance to Mission Concepción.
Mission San Antonio de Valero was home to missionaries and Native American converts until 1793, when it became a Spanish military outpost. Because the fort stood in the middle of a grove of cottonwood trees. Spanish troops, renamed the chapel "El Alamo," in honor of their hometown in Mexico, Alamo de Parras. "Alamo" is the Spanish word for cottonwood.
Mission San José, San Antonio's largest mission, was founded in 1720 by Father Antonio Margil de Jesús to alleviate overcrowding at Mission San Antonio de Valero. It's named after St. Joseph and the Marqués de Aguayo, the governor of Coahuila and Texas.
The intricate portal features representations of the cross, St. Joseph holding an infant Jesus, St. Dominic, St. Francis, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Joachim and St. Anne holding an infant Mary.
Mission San José's facade featured an ornamental plaster fresco, remnants of which are still visible at the base of the bell tower.
The Rose Window, located on the mission's south wall, is considered one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in North America. It's commonly attributed to Mexican sculpture Pedro Huizar, who is said to have sculpted the window as a monument to his lover Rosa. It's a lovely story, but it's also not true. According to Texas Monthly, Huizar first arrived at Mission San José nearly 20 years after the window was sculpted.
The oldest grist mill in Texas is located Mission San José. Built in 1794, the grist mill was restored in 2001 and is still operational.
Mission Concepción was originally founded in 1716 in East Texas, but was relocated to San Antonio in 1731, following an incursion of French military forces from Louisiana. It's named in honor of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and Juan de Acuña, the Marqués de Casafuerte, the Spanish Viceroy of New Spain at the time.
Mission Concepción, dedicated in 1755, is the oldest unrestored stone church in America. The house of worship features a number of remnants of mid-17th century frescoes, the most famous of which is "The Eye of God," located on the ceiling of convento room.
Each year during The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15, Mission Concepción features a rare double illumination. According the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, "this impressive display of architectural wonder happens when sunbeams enter two western exposure windows of the mission - one beam illuminating the face of the painting of the Immaculate Conception and the other beam the center of the sanctuary below the dome, at exactly 6:30 p.m."
Mission Espada was originally founded as Mission San Francisco de los Tejas in 1690 near Weches, Texas. The mission relocated to San Antonio in 1731.
A kitchen fire in 1826 destroyed most of the mission buildings at Espada, with only the chapel, granary and two of the compound walls remaining.
The Espada Acequia was built in 1731 to carry water from the San Antonio River to Mission Espada and the surrounding farmland. The system features the only surviving Spanish aqueduct in the United States, which is still in use today.
Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded in East Texas in 1716 and was originally christened as La Misión San José de los Nazonis. The mission was relocated to San Antonio in 1731.
Mission San Juan underwent a major renovation in 2012, because shifting clay soil caused major cracks in the walls and falling plaster.
In 2000, three 18th century statues were stolen from Mission San Juan's altar, including a 1731 statue depicting the mission's namesake, Giovanni de Capistrano. The theft was the fourth major art theft from the San Antonio Missions that year. Four small paintings stolen from Mission San Juan and a statue of the Virgin Mary stolen from Mission Concepción were recovered in 2001.
The San Antonio Missions have been vandalized many times. These etchings in a stone wall in Mission San Juan in 2011 likely caused permanent damage.