Mission San Jose is one of 5 Spanish frontier Catholic missions in the Texan city.  It's part of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site that dates back to the 18th century. A beautiful example of Spanish colonial architecture, the mission is still an active Catholic parish. And with well-preserved buildings and grounds, a visit offers a unique glimpse into what the mission might have originally looked like 3 centuries ago.

You can join a walking tour or attend the lively bilingual Mariachi Mass at 12.30 pm on Sundays. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can hike or bike from Downtown San Antonio to Mission San Jose along the river. The trail is approximately 8 miles. Plan to spend around 1.5–2 hours when visiting the mission. Read on to find out more about Mission San Jose and its fascinating 300-year-old history.

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What are the highlights of Mission San Jose?

Mission San Jose is known as the “Queen of the Missions” and is the largest of San Antonio’s 5 historic Catholic missions. Begin your explorations at the Visitor’s Centre. You can watch a short movie called Gente de Razón (People of Reason) to learn more about mission life, the historical park, and the indigenous communities of southern Texas in the 18th-century.

Among the most striking features of the mission’s architecture are the church’s carvings and the famous Rose Window. Each of the 25 steps of the stairway to the choir loft and bell tower was hand-carved from a single live-oak log – without using nails or pegs.

The celebrated window sits on the church sacristy’s south wall. It's considered one of the most exquisite Spanish Colonial ornamentations in the US. The mission’s grounds hold restored defensive walls, living quarters, a granary, and the oldest mill in Texas. 

A brief history of Mission San Jose

Fray Antonio Margil de Jesus founded Mission San Jose in 1720. Since Spanish missions were not solely churches but social communities with the church at its centre, it quickly became the largest of its kind in Texas – sustaining our 300 inhabitants.

Between 1720 and 1758, the mission moved three times before it was finally constructed out of limestone and stucco into the magnificent architectural achievement we can still appreciate today. At one time, it was considered the most beautiful church in New Spain.

The mission ran as a Spanish Mission for 104 years, baptising over 2,000 indigenous people before it officially closed in 1824. Mexican and Tejano military later occupied the property from time to time. In 1932, major restorations to the church, bastion, granary and Mission Indian living quarters began.

Good to know about Mission San Jose

Nearby Mission San Jose, within the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, are 3 other historic missions: Mission Concepción, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada. If you plan to visit more than 1 site, wear comfortable walking shoes as the ground can be uneven at times. Admission is free to all 4 missions in the national park.

You can also enjoy the Mission Trails hike and bike trail. The route begins in Downtown San Antonio at the famous Alamo Mission. The trail heads south, passing the other 4 Spanish colonial missions and agricultural fields, dams, and the aqueduct at Mission Espada. If you prefer to take public transport, take VIA Bus 42 or VIVA Bus 40.

Mission San Jose in San Antonio

Location: 6701 San Jose Dr, San Antonio, TX 78214, USA

Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

Phone: +1 210-932-1001

Jacqui de Klerk | Contributing Writer