The Mission San José Church and Compound
Initially, 240 Indians assigned to the Mission served as the primary labor force for construction, irrigation, and farming. The compound included a stone friary (convento), a granary, a gristmill, and workshops for carpentry, blacksmithing, and weaving. The Mission also had two livestock ranches (Rancho de Atascosa and Rancho de San Lucas) 25 miles away where Mission Indians learned to raise livestock.
Starting in 1759 through 1764, the plaza was enclosed behind stone walls to defend the residents from attack by other indigenous groups. At the time, 350 Mission Indians lived onsite in 84 two-room living quarters along the compound’s walls. These residences consisted of one main room and a kitchen.
The Mystery of The Rose Window
Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo is known as the “Queen of the Missions,” and the Rose Window is the jewel in her crown. The artisan who created the window on the south side of the sacristy remains a mystery; although, Pedro Huizar is believed to have been the craftsman who carved the window. There are two theories that exist about the window. The first is that it may have been named in memory of its creator’s girlfriend, Rosa, who tragically died at sea on her voyage from Spain. Another theory is that the window was named after Saint Rose of Lima, the first saint of the New World. The window is considered the finest example of Spanish colonial ornamentation in the United States.
Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo operated as a Spanish Mission for 104 years and baptized over 2,000 individual Indians. The Mission began the secularization process in 1794, with its days as a Spanish Mission officially ending in 1824. Mexican and Texian/Tejano military units later occupied the property intermittently. The church reopened for services from 1859 to 1868, until a portion of the north wall, dome and roof collapsed during storms. In 1928, the church’s bell tower collapsed. In 1932, a major restoration project began for the church, granary, bastion, and Mission Indian living quarters. The gristmill reopened in 2001. Today, the church plans to add a pavilion and community center outside the historic compound to serve the growing needs of the parish.