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Mission honors Nuestra Se’ora de la Purisma Concepción de Acu’a

Mission honors Nuestra Se’ora de la Purisma Concepción de Acu’a
A side chapel beckons visitors to enter through an archway.

Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

As we drove along Mission Road on our way to Mission Concepción, we could see modern life, homes, and commercial buildings, none of which would have been seen in 1755. When our destination came into view, it took our breath away and we were suddenly transported back in time and immersed in our history and the wonderment of what life was like back then.

Mission Concepción, located two miles south of downtown San Antonio, has the designation of being the oldest un-restored stone church in America. The mission was founded by Franciscan friars in 1716, moved to its present site in 1731 and, after being under construction for more than 20 years, was finally dedicated in 1755.

Solid as a rock

The mission was so well constructed that very little repair and restoration throughout the years were needed. If you had been there then, you would have seen colorful geometric designs and magnificent frescos covering most of the exterior and interior surfaces of this building. Sadly, the majority of them have worn away. But, because this mission was built on bedrock and has 45-inch thick walls, the roof remained intact and helped preserve several original frescos in four of the interior rooms. The most famous fresco is located on the Convento Room ceiling.

Back then, Mission Concepción was located in the State of Coahuila, Mexico. The native residents of the mission, made up of a number of distinct nomadic tribes collectively known as Coahuiltecans, provided the labor to build this magnificent structure with limestone quarried not far from the building site. The two layers of stones were filled with small stones, to form the 45-inch thick walls. Mission Concepción is a perfect example of the Spanish Colonial architecture, which can also be seen in other missions in San Antonio, including San Juan, San José, Espada, and the Alamo.

Citizen unrest

The new government of Mexico, established in 1821, was financially strapped and unable to provide the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas with the services that were normally required of a central government. This left the region to fend for itself.

This was unacceptable to the residents, many of whom were settlers from the north, and a movement was born to separate themselves and create a state of their own. As the movement grew, so did the strained relationship with the Mexican government. By 1834, the residents of the region began to call themselves “Texians” (from the state of Tejas, now Texas).

Battle of


On Oct. 28, 1835, just four months before the Battle of the Alamo, James Bowie and James Fannin led a group of Texians in a 30-minute skirmish with Mexican troops. This battle, described as the first major engagement of the Texas Revolution, took place on the grounds of Mission Concepción.

A scouting party of about 90 men led by Bowie and Fannin was looking for a defensible spot near Bexar (now San Antonio) for the newly created Texian Army. The commander of the Mexican troops sent 275 soldiers to attack the Texians camped at Concepción. The Texians had a better defensive position and better ammunition and were able to repel the Mexican soldiers. The Texians lost only one man.

Enjoy your visit

Mission Concepción, like many missions in the San Antonio area, is part of the National Park Service. There are no entrance or activity fees charged. Guests are welcome to explore on their own, but to get the most out of your visit, join a guided tour presented by a Park Ranger or docent most weekdays at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Tours last 45 to 60 minutes and start at the Visitor Center. You will learn the history of the mission and the people who lived there and discover the importance of this critical part of America’s history.

Mission Concepción is an active parish with Sunday Mass at 10 a.m. (bilingual) and noon (Spanish Mariachi).

If you are lucky, Daniel one of the Park Rangers will be at the Mission on the day of your visit. He can tell you everything about the history and symbolism of many frescos that adorn the walls and ceiling of this 259-year-old place of worship.

His description of the “solar illumination” that occurs every year on Aug. 15 points to the genius of the designers of Mission Concepción and their skillful fusing of architecture with nature and the movement of the sun. While moving through the interior rooms, Daniel plays his flute, setting the perfect mood of being in this magnificent gem of historical value.

Be a sport

In June 2012 the new $16 million Mission Concepción Sports Complex was completed; it includes a gymnasium with six basketball courts that can convert to 12 volleyball courts, softball and baseball fields, soccer fields, a lighted track, and trails connecting the complex to Mission Concepción and the Mission Reach Restoration Project. The sports complex is operated and managed by Bexar County.

Harry and Linda Kaye Perez are freelance writers from just down the road from Floresville. Together they share a passion for traveling and writing, and discovering the very best in all corners of the world. Email them at

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