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Mission Espada

At a Glance

Mission San Francisco de la Espada was the first Spanish Mission in Texas. It was founded in 1690 as San Francisco de los Tejas near present-day Nacogdoches in East Texas. It was renamed as Mission San Francisco de la Espada when it moved to San Antonio in 1731. Distinctive Spanish design features can be seen in the church doorway, bell tower, and brick archways. Espada’s ranch, Rancho de las Cabras, is 23 miles south of the Mission and had as many as 1,262 head of cattle and 4,000 sheep. Mission Espada’s acequia is the nation’s oldest in continuous use. It still uses San Antonio River water to irrigate local crops today illustrating the connection the river makes between the past and the present.

The Mission Espada Church and Compound

The first few years of the Mission in San Antonio were hard. In 1736, Apaches raided the Mission and stole the Mission’s horses. A year later, all 230 of the Mission Indians deserted the compound. In 1739, an epidemic of smallpox and measles swept through the compound, but by 1745 the population rebounded due to new recruits. The two-story convento (the priests’ residence and office) was completed in 1745 and featured workrooms for weaving fabric and spinning yarn. The Mission also included a large stone granary, Indian living quarters nearby, and kilns for firing bricks and lime.

Espada’s Unusual Church Doorway

Speculation abounds as to the origin of Mission Espada’s irregularly arched doorway design. Some believe that it is Moorish, but that the stones outlining the top of the door were positioned incorrectly. Instead of making a smooth circular pattern, the top seven stones jut out above the bottom two on each side. Another theory is that the head stonemason left the Mission after the stones were cut, but before they were assembled, so he was unavailable to supervise their placement. There is also speculation that the stones for the doorway were carved for the larger church that was never built (the current church was built as a sacristy for the larger church).

After Secularization

In 1794, Mission San Francisco de la Espada began transforming to a church-based community. Secularization of the Mission completed in 1824. The 15 remaining families received land, equipment, and supplies. During the next decades, the community thrived. By 1885, when Father Francis Bouchu arrived to restore it, the Mission complex itself was in ruins. Bouchu rebuilt the convent for his residence and added a general store. The chapel was rebuilt by 1887. When Bouchu died in 1907, the chapel closed, but it reopened in 1911 with a new roof, ceiling and floor, as well as new windows and doors.

Getting to Espada

10040 Espada Rd,
San Antonio, TX 78214

The last stop on our World Heritage Trail is a mile-and-a-half south of Mission San Juan Capistrano and 8.5 miles south of the Alamo. The San Antonio River Walk Mission Reach trail will bring you the whole way by bike, and by car you can follow the World Heritage Trail by taking Villamain Road south to Camino Coahuilteca right to the main entrance. VIA VIVA Missions public transportation will take riders from the Alamo to Mission Concepción, Mission San José and Mission San Juan. Mission Espada will be added at a later date.

Map of Mission Espada Area

Take I-35 S to San Antonio. Follow I-35 S and keep right at the fork to continue on I-35 Frontage Rd/NE I-410. Keep left to continue on I-410 S. Take exit 44 for US-281 S toward TX 536 Spur/Roosevelt Ave/Pleasanton. Exit and keep right and then turn left onto Espada Rd to continue to Mission Espada.

Take I-37 N to San Antonio and exit 133 for I-410/TX-130/US-281 S. Keep left at the fork and take I-410 W/US-281 S/TX-130 S. Continue on I-410 W and take exit 44 for US-281 S toward TX 536 Spur/Roosevelt Ave/Pleasanton. Exit and keep right and then turn left onto Espada Rd to continue to Mission Espada.

Follow I-35 E and I-35 S to San Antonio. Follow I-35 S and keep right at the fork to continue on I-35 Frontage Rd/NE I-410. Keep left to continue on I-410 S. Take exit 44 for US-281 S toward TX 536 Spur/Roosevelt Ave/Pleasanton. Exit and keep right and then turn left onto Espada Rd to continue to Mission Espada.

Take I-10 E to San Antonio. Follow I-10 E and use right two lanes to take exit 153 to merge onto I-10 E/US-87 S/US-90 E toward Houston. Use the right two lanes to take exit 574 to merge onto I-37 S/US-281 S toward Corpus Christi. Take exit 133 to merge onto I-410 W/US-281 S. Take exit 44 for US-281 S toward TX 536 Spur/Roosevelt Ave/Pleasanton. Exit and keep right and then turn left onto Espada Rd to continue to Mission Espada.

Take I-45 N to I-10 W. Follow I-10 W to San Antonio. Take exit 581 for I-410 and keep left at the fork and follow signs for I-410 S. Continue on I-410 S and exit 44 for US-281 S toward TX 536 Spur/Roosevelt Ave/Pleasanton. Exit and keep right and then turn left onto Espada Rd to continue to Mission Espada.

Take I-35 N to San Antonio. Take exit 145A to merge onto I-410 E/TX-16 S. Continue on I-410 E and take exit 43 and continue toward Espada Rd. Keep right toward Espada Rd and turn left at the fork toward Mission Espada.

Take US-281 S from E Terminal Dr and Dee Howard Way. Continue on US-281 S and take I-37 S. Take exit 133 to merge onto I-410 W/US-281 S. Take exit 44 for US-281 S toward TX 536 Spur/Roosevelt Ave/Pleasanton. Exit and keep right and then turn left onto Espada Rd to continue to Mission Espada.

Photo for exploring the area

Explore the Area

San Antonio is a city on the rise, with eclectic neighborhoods to explore, a buzzing food scene and vibrant nightlife – all near our historic World Heritage Site missions.

 
Photo of downtown San Antonio

Touring the City

With the new VIA VIVA public transportation routes, San Antonio River Mission Reach hike & bike trails and guided tours throughout the city, San Antonio is incredibly accessible for all kinds of adventurers.

 

Mission Espada Events