Front of church

Front of church

South elevation of San Jose

South elevation of San Jose

South elevation of San Jose detail

South elevation of San Jose detail

Rose window

Rose window

Front doors carved by Peter Mansbendel (his most public work) 1937

Front doors carved by Peter Mansbendel (his most public work) 1937

Detail of door-showing Peter's signature & date

Detail of door-showing Peter's signature & date

Door detail

Door detail

door detail

door detail

Historical photo of Peter posing with the doors-1937 (Peter is 5'6

Historical photo of Peter posing with the doors-1937 (Peter is 5'6")

Historical photo of Peter posing with the doors-1937

Historical photo of Peter posing with the doors-1937

Interior doors -carved by Mansbendel

Interior doors -carved by Mansbendel

South side entry doors-carved by Mansbendel

South side entry doors-carved by Mansbendel

Example Frame

Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo (San Jose)

Architect/Builder: ? Father Antonio Margil de Jesús (Spain)
Year: 1720
Style: Spanish Baroque
Areas of Significance: Architecture, Art
City: San Antonio

Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo (San Jose)
Founded in 1720, the mission was named for Saint Joseph and the Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo, the governor of the Province of Coahuila and Texas at the time. It was built on the banks of the San Antonio river several miles to the south of the earlier mission, San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo). Its founder was the famed Father Antonio Margil de Jesús, a very prominent Franciscan missionary in early Texas.

Queen of the Missions 
San José, as it became known, was the largest of the missions in the area. At its height, the community contained about 300 Indian neophytes sustained by extensive fields and herds of livestock. Viewed as the model among the Texas missions, San José gained a reputation as a major social and cultural center. It became known as the "Queen of the Missions." Its imposing complex of stone walls, bastions, granary, and magnificent church was completed in 1782. 

So rich an enterprise was a natural target for Apache and Comanche depredations. With technical help from the two presidial soldiers garrisoned there, San José residents learned to defend themselves. Already proficient with bow and arrow, Indians also learned the use of guns and cannon.

A Lasting Symbol 
Although they could not prevent raids on their livestock, the mission itself was almost impregnable. In his journal, Fray Juan Agustín Morfí attested to its defensive character: "It is, in truth, the first mission in America . . . in point of beauty, plan, and strength . . . there is not a presidio along the entire frontier line that can compare with it." Mission San José has become a lasting symbol throughout the centuries for the mission frontier in Texas

Having fallen into disrepair and partial ruin over the years, the San Antonio Conservation Society and the Federal Government among others, undertook to restore portions of the mission community in the 1920s and 1930s. The church, which had lost its dome, bell tower, and a wall, was rededicated in 1937. In 1941, Mission San José was declared a State Historic Site, and later that same year, a National Historic Site.

Carved Doors
Carved doors at Mission San José’s church entrance.. The present doors were carved in 1937 by Peter Mansbendel to replace those removed in the 1880s. Using historic stereoscopic images, Mansbendel reproduced the original door design in 2.5 inch thich Black Wanut. . Small doors fitted within the larger ones are used to enter the church. Mansbendel carved these doors in 6 weeks.

The Rose Window
La Ventana de Rosa, the Rose Window, south window of Mission San José’s sacristy (photo: 1980). The window, sculpted ca. 1775, has been the object of both legend and admiration. The window has also been described during the Feast of Pentecost as the site where the host was shown to gathered mission celebrants.

Church at Mission San José
Southwest elevation of the church and convento at Mission San José (early 20th century). The image was made prior to the collapse of the bell tower in 1928. The sacristy dome does not appear in the image, having collapsed in 1873. The fence that is seen was erected by the Landmark Society ca. 1904, one year after the collapse of the spiral choir stairwell leading up the tower. By the early 20th century, visitors were regularly traveling from San Antonio to see the missions.

This image of the southwest elevation of the church and convento at Mission San José, taken in 1995, gives the viewer a glimpse of the remnants of the largest structure in the park remaining from the mission period. The arches are all that remain of the convento, which housed the missionaries. During the reconstruction of the mission in the 1920s and 1930s, the convento was not rebuilt. In the 1850's Benedictines from Latrobe, Pennsylvania purchased the mission complex from the Diocese of San Antonio - they planned to develop it as a school for boys. The American Civil War intervened and the property reverted to the diocese. The partial construction in the convento precept in 19th century gothic style led those planning Spanish colonial reconstruction to refrain from doing so in light of the destruction of the provenance of the original structure.
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