Are you planning a southern vacation in the U.S. and hoping to see some historical sites, then you have to check out these missions in Texas!
History buff or not, these Texas missions are a great place to learn about our past and see some beautiful architecture at some of the oldest buildings in the Lone Star State.
Spanish missions in Texas have a long history dating back to 1632! These missions were religious communities created by Spanish priests and missionaries to teach Catholicism to the Native Americans in the region.
While these missions have a troubled past and are not something we condone, there is still a lot to learn and see that make visiting these missions in Texas worth the trip.
We have found the prettiest Spanish missions in Texas, so you can impress all your friends and family with your new American history knowledge and gorgeous photos. Now, let’s get going!
10 Prettiest Spanish Missions In Texas You Must See
Mission San Jose
Our first stop may have you thinking you just stepped into a fairytale with its stunning castle like facade and stone archways. Mission San Jose is located in San Antonio and is less than a 20 minute drive from The Alamo, so plan to see both of these San Antonio missions on your next trip!
This is the largest of all the San Antonio missions and is referred to as the “Queen of the Missions.” The church is still active and allows visitors to attend their Sunday mass.
While visiting one of the prettiest missions in Texas, make sure to look for the flying buttresses and the famous Rose Window which is considered to be one of the most exceptional examples of Baroque architecture here in America. The sculptor and significance of the window are shrouded in myth, but it is credited to Spanish artist, Pedro Huizar.
Be sure to see this mission that is said to be “the most beautiful church along the entire frontier of New Spain.” The classic architecture and old world feel is stunning! You can practically feel the history here.
Mission Espada was established in 1731 as a Roman Rite Catholic mission. It is one of the four missions in Texas that make up San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.
This missions exterior is not to be missed! Make sure to check out the three mission bells at the top of the facade, as well as the beautiful front door which is made of carved wood and framed in an intricate stone arch. It is quite possibly the perfect spot for an enchanting photo!
Not only are the architectural details on this church exquisite, the grounds also still have a section of the area’s original irrigation system that continue to be in operation to this day!
Self-guided walking tours are available any day the park is open, while guided tours are only offered on the first Saturday of each month.
While visiting don’t miss the Arbol de Vida, Tree of Life, which is considered by some to be a hidden gem in Texas. It is a newer installation showcasing the local tales and history of the community. This is another one of the San Antonio missions you just have to see for yourself!
Mission San Antonio de Valero, The Alamo
What is a trip to Texas without visiting The Alamo?
Although we now know this Texas mission as The Alamo, it was known as Mission San Antonio de Valero in colonial times. It was the first of the San Antonio missions.
The mission was secularized in 1793 and became a fort to house military troops in the early 1800s. In 1836 during the Texas Revolution a group of Texas soldiers defended The Alamo against the Mexican army. The Alamo is now an important piece of Texas history and a cultural icon.
Touring the church is always free, but they also offer guided tours and hands on demonstrations that take you back to daily life in the 1830s.
Make sure to go through the gardens while you are there and walk the bronze sculpture trail. You can’t miss out on seeing the Shrine of Texas Liberty. The Alamo should be a stop on every Texas road trip itinerary!
Whether you are going to learn more about the history or purely to see some pretty Spanish missions in Texas, we know you will be glad you visited. You are guaranteed to “Remember The Alamo” for a long time to come!
La Lomita Mission
La Lomita (“little hill”) Chapel is located on a small hill in Mission, Texas. If you guessed that the mission is the city’s namesake, then you would be right!
Being near the Rio Grande has made the church vulnerable to repeat flooding, fortunately the mission has been rebuilt every time it was destroyed. Today the mission serves as reminder to the area’s history and is a religious sanctuary.
In 1975, La Lomita Mission was added to the National Register of Historic Places for playing a vital role in the development of the Rio Grande Valley.
This mission has a much simpler exterior than some of the others churches in our Texas mission guide, but it is still worth a visit! When planning your trip, make sure to check out the other missions in Mission while you are there!
Originally located in New Mexico, Mission Corpus Christi de la Yselta can now be found in El Paso and is considered to be the oldest continuously occupied parish in Texas.
It is believed to have been first built from mudded logs and willow reeds and later converted to a more permanent structure. However, the church suffered at least three floods and a fire in 1907, so it has been rebuilt numerous times. Luckily some of the original walls, church bell and a beloved Spanish statue of Santo Entierro have survivied.
In 1908 the building was repaired and is still being used by the El Paso Diocese today. The Tigua Indians celebrate a few ritual days at the mission, including the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua on June 13th.
Be sure to check out one of the first missions in Texas! The church is open daily to the public and they hold services in both Spanish and English. If you happen to be visiting in the summer over the second weekend in July stop by the Yselta Mission festival which celebrates the music, food and culture of the El Paso valley for three days.
Mission Espíritu Santo
Started by Franciscan priests in 1722, Mission Espiritu Santo was set up to convert the Native Karankawa Indians into devoted Christians as well as use them for labor and deter the French who were stationed in Louisiana from gaining more land.
Mission Espiritu Santo has moved location three times, but now resides in Goliad, Texas. It is a part of Goliad State Park and is included in the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1778, the mission became the first large Texas cattle ranch, with almost 40,000 cattle roaming the property! Theses cattle along with crops the Native Americans grew were used to trade with other missions located in eastern Texas and western Louisiana.
This historic mission has a pretty whitewashed stone exterior flanked by an arched breezeway. When visiting, you can tour inside the chapel, learn all about the mission’s heritage and even ring the mission bell.
Since this Spanish mission is located inside the Goliad State Park, there are other historic sites and activities to do there during your trip. Hiking trails, bird look outs, canoeing and kayaking are just a few of the many options you can participate in!
This is one of the missions in Texas you cannot miss!
As you may have noticed, many of these structures have faced their fair share of natural disasters and have been reconstructed due to flooding and fires. Luckily, this is not the case for Mission Concepcion. It is the oldest standing unrestored stone church in America and looks almost identical to how it did two centuries ago!
With its original stone facade and intricate detailing you may completely forget that you are still in Texas. Walking through the outdoor stone corridors may just transport you right to a Spanish fortress, at least for a moment.
Though the structure of the mission has not changed since it was first constructed, the exterior was previously painted in colorful, geometric patterns. Even though you can’t see the exterior paint anymore, you can see some of the original fresco paintings inside the church to get an idea of what it might have been like.
We consider this historic mission a must see when visiting San Antonio and one of the prettiest missions in Texas. It truly feels like you are visiting a castle in Texas. So if magical looks are what you’re after, add Mission Concepcion to your must see list right away!
Mission Santa Cruz de San Saba
Out of all the missions in Texas, this is the only one that was destroyed by a Native American attack. After the defeat, the mission was abandoned and was once called “the lost mission of Texas.”
For most of the 20th century the exact location of the mission was unknown, though historians did know of the settlement since it was well documented. Finally in 1993 the ruins were discovered in an alfalfa field near Menard, Texas!
Archeologists were able to determine that this was the correct location by studying stains left in the soil by the structures’ support poles and uncovering artifacts dating back to 1580.
About six years after the mission was abandoned, a mural was painted in Mexico City depicting the destruction. The painter had never been to Texas, but had eyewitnesses tell him all the details of the church and the attack. Archeologists believe the mural is fairly accurate based on their findings, which is incredible since the artist had never seen the mission before!
The painting was shipped to the U.S. for a short time in 1990, but was returned to Mexico after controversy ensued.
Even though the structure is no longer standing, the ruins are still there to visit. Meander around the crumbling walls or enjoy a picnic near the still standing stone archway, what a way to soak in history!
Founded in 1682 by the Franciscan order, the original mission served Native Americans who fled present-day New Mexico during the Pueblo Revolt.
In 1840, the current structure was built in a traditional South West style and has design elements of 17th century Spanish New Mexico. This new church replaced the old building that was destroyed by the flooding of the Rio Grande.
The exterior is composed of adobe and stucco and has a classic arched cut out with a mission bell. Inside, the church is decorated with painted wooden beams on the ceiling, known as vigas, saved from the original 18th century mission that was ruined in the flood.
This is one of the Spanish missions in Texas that is definitely worth a visit and it is only a short drive from El Paso. If you decide to make the trip, plan on stopping at the Yselta Mission as well which is close by!
Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission
Are you considering a visit to the La Lomita Chapel? If so, you should make sure to check out our next stop, which is also located in Mission and was set up as the daughter church to the La Lomita Mission.
Like many of the other missions in Texas on this list, the original wooden structure, previously named Our Lady of the Mission, burned down. The structure was rebuilt in 1927 and recently underwent a large expansion and refurbishment project.
The new Mission Revival style church has a four story bell tower topped with a dome and elaborate, arched stained glass windows. In 1990, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic church was named a Texas Historic Landmark.
The church offers daily mass services if you are interested in attending during your visit, just make sure to plan accordingly.