A World Heritage Site is “a place (such as a building, city, complex, desert, forest, island, lake, monument, or mountain) listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as being of special cultural or physical significance.” (source: Wikipedia.) 1,092 World Heritage Sites are worldwide; 845 are cultural sites, 209 are natural sites, and 38 are mixed sites. Currently, there are 23 World Heritage Sites in the United States, 12 of them are natural sites, 10 are cultural sites, and 1 is a mixed site. In July 2015, the San Antonio Missions was Texas’s only World Heritage Site.

Each of the 4 Missions is approximately 2.5 miles apart, with a total distance between the 4 Missions about 6.5 miles. Admission to the grounds of the Missions is free. Parking is free if you choose to drive your vehicle to the Missions. Guided tours of the Missions are also free, provided by a Park Ranger or a Volunteer Guide. Mission San Jose features Park Ranger-led tours daily at 10 am, 11 am, 2 pm, and 3 pm. Tours are done at Missions Concepcion, San Juan, and Espada if staff is available. For more info, visit https://www.nps.gov/saan/index.htm.

Mission Concepcion

It was built along the Angelina River, just northwest of Laneville in Rusk County 1716. It was later moved to San Antonio in 1731. On October 28, 1835, the grounds were the location of the Battle of Concepcion between Mexican troops and Texian insurgents. The church, built in the shape of a cross in 1755, is the oldest unrestored stone church in the United States—address:

807 Mission Rd, San Antonio, TX 78210.

Mission San Jose

The largest of the Missions, known as the “Queen of the Missions.” Established in 1720, the Mission is home to the oldest grist mill in Texas. Originally built in 1794 and restored in 2001, the mill still operates today. The Mission is also home to the park’s Visitor Center, which features a 23-minute video, Gente de Razon (People of Reason), about the history of the missions and their people. A popular feature of the church, built in 1768 using local limestone, is the Rose Window. It is “considered one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in North America.” The window, sculpted in 1775, measures approximately 10 feet high and 6 feet wide. The craftsman of the Rose Window is unknown; it is thought that Pedro Huizar sculpted the window.

There are two popular theories behind the naming of the Rose Window. One is that it was named after the girlfriend of the craftsman, Rosa after she tragically died at sea, and the other is that it was named after Saint Rosa of Lima, the first saint of the New World—address: 6701 San Jose Dr, San Antonio, TX 78214.

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Built-in East Texas in 1716, and moved to San Antonio in 1731. It is named after Saint John Capestrano, a theologian and warrior priest from the small town of Capestrano, located in the Abruzzo region of Italy. The Mission is home to the popular Yanaguana Trail, a paved, shaded, tranquil nature trail—address: 9101 Graf Rd, San Antonio, TX 78214.

Mission Espada

Built in 1690 near Weches, a community in Houston County, and was later moved to San Antonio in 1731. Most of the original buildings were destroyed in 1826 due to a kitchen fire. All that remains today is the chapel. The Espada Acequia, built-in 1731, is popular at the Mission for carrying water from the San Antonio River to Mission Espada. Still in use today, it is the only remaining Spanish aqueduct in the United States. In 1964, the aqueduct was designated a National Historic Landmark; in 1968, it was designated a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark—address: 10040 Espada Road, San Antonio, Texas, 78214.