Initially, missions were unwalled communities built of wood or adobe with the purpose to spread the Catholic faith to the Native Americans. These Franciscan missions were financed by the Crown of Spain. As hostilities escalated between the northern tribes and missionary residents, the structures were encircled by stone walls. Directed by skilled craftsmen, the mission Native Americans built the communities.
We visited the San Jose Mission, the most well known of the Texas missions. There is a 20+ minute film that provides a concise synopsis of its establishment and daily life at the missions.
Native Americans lived in the rooms on the outer perimeter of the Mission. The missions' aggressive program of coercive conversion to Catholicism forever altered the lifestyles of the Coahuiltecans (hunter/gatherer cultures indigenous to south Texas). Diseases brought to them by the Europeans coupled with the changes in the area (overhunting, conflict with other Native Americans, etc.) caused many to look to the Missions for survival. There they learned about agriculture, sheep and cattle, weaving cloth, building stone structures, in return for food and safety for families within the walls of the missions.
Looking through a window into a room occupied by a family in the mission.
Multiple communal ovens were in evidence in the plaza.
Multiple communal wells were also in the plaza.
Deluxe accommodations in the mission.
Porch-like structure on the perimeter of the mission.
Tree in the Plaza.
Fortified interior wall.
The Cathedral: Don't miss this! Interior is very beautiful. Services are still held here.
The exterior was originally painted in bright colors.
Famous Rose Window that illustrates the fine craftsmanship of those who built the Mission.
Interior of the Cathedral (breathtaking).
Exteriors wall to protect those in the Mission from the attacking Apache and Comanche tribes.