The largest of the missions, regarded as the "Queen of the Missions, " is San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo, now known more informally as Mission San Jose. Work began on its construction in 1720 and the mission was completed in 1782. In 1874, both the dome and the roof collapsed. The year 1928 saw the collapse of the church tower. The church itself is constructed of brightly colored stucco and Texas limestone.
Architectural features for which the mission is noted include the "Rose Window, " flying buttresses, quatrefoil patterns, polychromatic plaster and numerous intriguing carvings. The 25 risers in the loft for the choir were all hand-carved from a single log. They were joined without the use of either pegs or nails.
A person could be forgiven for expecting the Rose Window to follow the pattern of other similarly-named features of its kind. The traditional rose window, or Catherine Window, is a generic term applied to a window in the form of a circle. The structure is divided by "spokes" using tracery and mullions, earning it the alternative name, "wheel window."
The rose window at the San Jose church is nothing like its medieval counterparts. From the exterior, it resembles an ornately-framed oval with a superimposed rectangle. In its time, roughly 1770, it was the most ornate and grandiose item in the United States. No one knows how it got its name. Seven feet in height, the window is situated only four and a half feet above ground level.
The other three churches situated inside the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park are Mission Concepcion, dedicated in 1755; Mission San Juan de Capistrano, completed in 1756 and not to be confused with the mission of the same name in southern California (to which the swallows flock each year) and Mission Espada (Mission San Francisco de la Espada). The fifth, and most famous, of the five Spanish frontier missions is the Alamo.
The fifth Spanish mission located in San Antonio, The Alamo, was the site of one of the defining battles in Texas history during the Texas War of Independence (otherwise known as the Texas Revolution). The war, lasting six months, was between the Mexican government and the colonists of Texas. That particular conflict ended with the formation of the Texan republic. Prior to the Mexican-American War that took place in 1848, Texas was formally entered into the union as the 28th state.
No longer a Roman Catholic church, the mission at The Alamo is now a museum in downtown San Antonio as part of the Alamo Plaza District. A viewing of each of the other Franciscan missions, located in the National Historical park, can be completed in roughly two to four hours per site. In total, the park is home to more than 180 species of bird. Admission to the park is free, as are the guided tours.
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