Mission San Francisco de la Espada (also Mission Espada) is a Roman Catholic mission established by Spain in 1690 and moved to the present day San Antonio, Texas, in what was then known as northern New Spain, in 1731. The mission was built with the aim of converting local native Americans to Christianity and solidifying Spanish territorial claims against encroachment from France in the New World . Today, the structure is one of four missions comprising the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.
It was the first mission in Texas, founded in 1690 as San Francisco de los Tejas, near present-day Weches, Texas. In 1731, the mission was transferred to the San Antonio River and renamed Mission San Francisco de la Espada. The church was built in 1745, and the church was completed in 1756.
The roots of Espada lie in East Texas, where in 1690 Spain founded Mission San Francisco de los Texas. Along with several others, it served as a buffer against the French encroachment of Louisiana. Fever, floods , fires, enemies, and limited supplies have led to several relocations of this early mission. On March 5, 1731, the San Francisco de la Espada Mission was established along the bank of the San Antonio River. Imagine two different cultures — separated by language , values and faith — collide and merge to create a unique mix.
The Franciscan missionaries of Spain pursued a powerful vision for God and the land. They aligned and trained the Coahuiltecan (kwa-weel-teken) to hunt and gather cultures to be servants of God and loyal, productive citizens of New Spain. Over a period of 50 years, they have taught the principles of agriculture, ranching, architecture, blacksmiths, loom weaving, spinning, and masonry. Espada was the only mission in San Antonio where bricks and tiles were made. The Catholic faith and the Spanish language have become the foundation of a new culture.
Many Coahuiltecans, staggered by strange intruders, famine, imported diseases, and enemy tribes, opted to protect and maintain the food supply of Mission Espada. Here they mastered the Spanish arts and crafts-and embraced Christianity.
By the middle of the 1700’s, these mission walls echoed the essence of a dynamic community: the blacksmith’s ringing anvil, the bellowing livestock, the three looming looms, the clatter of carpentry, and the scrape of the brickmaker. Imagine the peach orchards and vast fields of beans, corn, and melons beyond the walls and inside, the hum of songs, prayers, and instructional conversations. Daily training and tasks were carried out on the timing of the mission bells “which sounded three times a day … starting in the still country air.”
In 1794, Espada began the process of secularization or transformation into a church-based community. The mission, however, was impoverished. Each of the remaining 15 families received land, but shared facilities and supplies. In 1826, the Comanche band raided the cornfields and killed the livestock. The same year, most of the buildings were destroyed by a kitchen fire; the chapel survived. Yet, people have continued to make their home here.
Following the policy of the Government, Franciscan missionaries sought to make life in mission communities closely similar to that of Spanish villages and Spanish culture. In order to become Spanish citizens and productive inhabitants, native Americans have learned their professional skills. As plows, farm implements, and horses, oxen, and mules fell into disrepair, blacksmithing skills soon became indispensable. Weaving skills were needed to help the people clothe themselves. As buildings became more elaborate, mission occupants learned masonry and carpentry skills under the guidance of missionary craftsmen.
Wool from sheep raised at Rancho de las Cabras during the mission era would be washed, spun and woven at the missions. Visitors can see a working location at Mission Espada ‘s Contact Station.
The Espada Aqueduct is just north of Mission Espada. The Espada Aqueduct was built in 1745 by Franciscans to serve the Espada Mission and the surrounding area. The Espada Aqueduct brought water in the acequia from the San Antonio River over a low elevation creek to maintain the elevation and potential energy of the water. This potential energy would take the water from its original exit point on the San Antonio River to the Mission Espada farmlands. Mission Espada’s acequia system is the most complete and original acequia system in the park.
This amazing historic site is located in beautiful San Antonio, Texas, along with these other must-see important historical sites for you to check out:
- Fairmount Hotel
- Hot Wells Resort
- Menger Hotel
- Mission Concepción (Mission Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion de Acuna)
- Mission San Antonio de Valero (The Alamo)
- Mission San José (Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo)
- Mission San Juan (Mission San Juan Capistrano)
- Roosevelt Park
And after your visit make sure to stop by the best CBD Store in Helotes, Mary Jane’s CBD Dispensary, on Bandera Road!