Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo or simply known as Mission San Jose was founded in 1720 by a Franciscan missionary named Father Antonio Margil de Jesús in 1720. Mission San Jose was established because Mission San Antonio De Valero was becoming crowded after taking in several refugees from different missions in East Texas. Since its founding in 1720, the Mission has been relocated three times, with its first location being the east bank of the San Antonio River, just south of the Mission San Antonio de Valero.
The Mission San José Church and Compound
Initially, about 240 Indians were assigned to the Mission to serve as the primary labor force for irrigation, farming, and construction. Back then, the compound had a stone friary, a gristmill, a granary, a gristmill, and workshops for blacksmithing, weaving, and carpentry. Aside from that, the Mission San Jose also had two livestock ranches, namely Rancho de San Lucas and Rancho de Atascosa. Both of the farms were located miles away from where Mission Indians learned to raise livestock.
The first structures in Mission San Jose were made of straw, brush, and mud. However, these buildings were quickly replaced by colossal stone structures that served as offices, guest rooms, and dining rooms. From 1759 to1764, the Mission San Jose was surrounded by stone walls in order to defend the place and its residents from any attack from other indigenous groups. During that time, about 350 Mission Indians lived on Mission San Jose in 84 two-room living quarters situated at the compound’s walls. These said residences had one main room and a kitchen. In 1768, a new church was built from local limestone, and it still stands until today.
Not only is this the Mission San Jose the largest of the missions in the area, but it was also the most popular during that time because of its vast fields, several heads of livestock, cultural and complex social organization, and of course, its size.
Aside from that, Mission San Jose also gained a reputation as one of the area’s well-defended missions. Even if the Comanche and Apache tribes tried several times to raid the compound, they failed because the Coahuiltecan people who lived in the Mission defended it by using bow, arrows, guns, and cannons.
Secularization and Restoration
For over 104 years, Mission San Jose operated as a Spanish Mission for 104 years and baptized over 2,000 individual Indians. In 1794, Mission San Jose began the secularization process, and its days as a Spanish Mission officially ended in 1824. After that, Mexican and Texian/Tejano military units started to occupy the property sporadically. From 1859 to 1868, the church reopened for services until a part of the church’s north wall, roof, and the dome collapsed during storms.
The church’s bell tower collapsed in 1928. Four years later, the church, bastion, granary, and Mission Indian living quarters underwent a significant restoration project. The restoration process was made possible with help from the San Antonio Conservation Society and the Federal Government.
In 1941, the Mission was declared as a National and State Historic Site. And in 1978, the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park was founded. It included Mission San José within its boundaries, which further assured its protection and preservation through the coming years.
The Rose Window at the Church
One of the most interesting things to see in Mission San Jose is the La Ventana de Rosa or the Rose Window. This window is placed on the south wall of the church vestibule. Unlike other church’s “Rose Windows,” the one in Mission San Jose is not a round stained window, and it is not placed in front of the church.
Its unique baroque architecture design and the legend behind it made this particular Rose Window famous. They said that the creator who sculpted this window during the late 18th century had purportedly named it after the love of his life, Rosa. However, when she did not accept his invitation to join him at Mission San José, the creator swore he would never marry. However, his pledge only lasted for a very short time, as he did, in fact, married another woman and had several children after that.