Our first visit of the day was the San Jose Mission by far the largest and most impressive of the four we visited today. There was a small museum, a gift shop, a theater and very well-informed docent. Outside of the mission we saw a large honey mesquite tree. When the trees are ripe they have sweet beans on them and the children like to chew on them. Of course at this time of the year they looked rather barren. We were fortunate to arrive just before the 11:00 tour which included a walk around the mission with detailed explanations at each stop.
While waiting for the tour to begin we took a self-guided tour through the small museum. There were several displays that explained the early history of the missions. Missions were instituted to civilize the Indians and bring them to Christianity. Previously they were hunters and gathers, essentially nomads. Due to disease they were a dying breed thus the start of the missions.
Franciscan missionaries governed the missions. One or two men served as priests, teachers and administrators. They instructed the Indians in Catholicism and taught them to live as Spanish citizens thus giving up their culture.
The Franciscan missionaries wore blue-grey robes, the color worn by Spanish Franciscans showing their devotion to the Virgin Mary. In the late 19th century, Pope Leo decreed all Franciscans were to wear the same habit in brown and it is the same color used today. The robe had a cord at the waist that had a three-knot sequence denoting the observance of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Our tour guide was very informative and even teaches a class on the missions. We toured several of the buildings and then were able to go into the church which is still active today. In fact all of the four missions we visited today have active parishes.
The architecture is extraordinary. We entered the church through the sacristy. The font has a shell motif. Seashells are symbols for baptism, water and cleansing and are often seen in the church. Standing in the sacristy we could see out of the Rose window. The priest would ascend the steps leading up to it, open the window and deliver his message. It is of Spanish architecture and is made of limestone.
Just past the rose window on the outside are the remains of a true fresco. The limestone was burned on and then using a compass and a ruler the designs were etched in the wall and then pigment was added using goats milk.
At the end of the church, actually the front door, there is a depiction of the “perfect family”. The Indians were polygamists which went against the teaching of the church so the front entrance was showing them a perfect family. Joseph was at the top holding the Baby Jesus with St. Francis and St. Domic beside him. Below him was Mary and below her were her parents, showing the three generations. Interestingly enough, to my knowledge there is no mention of Mary’s family in the Bible. Jesus descended from the line of David which was Joseph’s lineage. Will have to do some research into that!
After touring the mission we went back to the gift shop and watched a very well done 23 minute video on the history of the mission. Then we did a little shipping in the gift shop. We both bough hats that we hope will be useful when we are in Big Bend as we hear the sun is very bright.
Our next stop was Mission Conception. A much smaller church though still active we were able to see it all just a few minutes. The chapel is small, cool but emitted a feeling a reverence.
After a quick bite at a MacDonald’s we went to the San Juan Mission. It too is small than San Jose and interestingly enough has a private section where the priest lives. That area had a nice little patio with some blooming potted plants.
Our last stop was the Mission Escapa. It too had a small museum and a ranger on duty but apparently he was getting his daily walk in. Other than a nod we never heard from him as he passed us several times. Escapa has a small chapel that is active today and it too had a private section which we could not enter.
When we left we rode downtown thinking we might visit the Buckhorn Saloon and I wanted Jerry to go on the River Cruise but we decided that parking was too expensive for the time we’d be there plus we were just tired! After a grocery run at Walmart we headed on back to the RV Park. Jerry made another round of sausage balls I cooked dinner. The National Championship game between Clemson and Alabama was on so we watched that. After a while I called it a night and headed to bed pretty sure that Bama would win. Imagine my surprise and glee when I woke up on Tuesday to hear that Clemson had won. Go Dabo!