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).
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.