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May 04, 2019 Slideshows » Arts

The Stunning Architecture of San Antonio's Most Historic Churches 

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Whether you're super religious or can just appreciate some fine architecture, here's a look at some of the Alamo City's oldest and most beautiful churches.
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Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower
1715 N Zarzamora St,
In a Beaux-Arts architecture style, the basilica evokes an emotional reaction even from San Antonians who may not be religious. The church was dedicated in 1931 as a shrine to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the “Little Flower.” This beautiful Roman Catholic church is one of less than 100 churches in the U.S. designated as a “minor basilica.” Due to its spiritual significance and undeniable beauty, the basilica was also named to the National Register of Historic Places.
Photo via Instagram / skylinedronetx
St. Mary's Catholic Church
202 N St Mary's St,
Founded in 1852, St. Mary’s in downtown San Antonio is the second oldest parish and one of the beautiful churches in the Alamo City. The church first served non-Spanish speaking Catholic residents at the time, but also grew to accompany a boy’s school adjacent to the church. This school later evolved, moved and became Central Catholic High School. There was also St. Mary’s Academy, which inspired the founding of St. Mary’s University.
Photo via Instagram / sniperv
First Presbyterian Church
404 N Alamo St,
Just a decade after all the drama went down at the Alamo, a Pennsylvania native by the name of John McCullough established the First Presbyterian Church. The church held many homes in its early years before eventually settling at the corner of Alamo and Fourth Street. Today, the church is active in the community and works with local organizations to help community members in need such as the homeless, poor and residents with special needs.
Photo via Instagram / fpcsanantonio
Mission San Jose
701 E Pyron Ave,
As Texas’ largest colonial mission, Mission San Jose definitely stands out. The carved limestone facade and the Rose Window are special points of interest, though every detail at this mission is unbelievably stunning. The Rose Window was sculpted in 1775 and is regarded as one of the finest examples of baroque architecture in the entire continent. Even more amazing is that nobody knows who completed it (though there’s plenty of theories). The church served as a model for other missions, though its unique architecture has contributed to its lasting legacy as the “Queen of the Missions.”
Photo via Instagram / azillachaser
Trinity Baptist Church
319 E Mulberry Ave,
Slide through the breezy foyer to the sanctuary, where the brightly-colored carpet leads up to a stunning altar that’s complete with risers for the choir. Then, there’s a stunning stained glass display that’s simple, but still so beautiful. If you can, take a tour of the Children’s Center that has a tree surrounded by artwork of animals.
Photo via Instagram / imaynotbefromla
Christ Episcopal Church
510 Belknap Pl,
Found in the charming Monte Vista neighborhood is Christ Episcopal Church, regarded as peaceful as it is beautiful. It was founded in 1907, so the church as welcomed plenty of visitors since its founding.
Photo via Instagram / joannaraeb
Mission San Juan Capistrano
9101 Graf Road,
Founded in 1731 by Spanish Catholics, Mission San Juan Capistrano sits on the San Antonio River, making it an altogether dazzling space – though its history is plagued with the fact that missionaries were meant to colonize indigenous folks in the area. It is reported that some of the parishioners there today are descendants of the original inhabitants. Otherwise, be sure to check out the Yanaguana Trail here, a paved walkway with surrounding trees and vegetation. The compound also includes a three-bell campanario, walls, foundations of the original living quarters, a granary building, a convento, a well and a residence. There’s even a small museum, so there’s much to appreciate here.
Photo via Instagram / paulanrandyporter
Immaculate Heart-Mary Church
617 S Santa Rosa Ave,
With permission from Rome, Immaculate Heart-Mary Church opened its doors to its congregation in 1912. Built in the byzantine Romanesque style, the church is rich in religious traditions as well as Hispanic culture, art and details. The aesthetic is truly mesmerizing here, just look at the hand-painted stencil motifs on the walls, vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows and religious statues as proof. The church also holds a bit of history as the bell here is the one that was formerly at San Fernando. That’s the same bell that was rung to announce the fall of the Alamo.
Photo via Instagram / fr._paul
San Fernando Cathedral
115 Main Plaza,
Sitting in the heart of the city, San Fernando is easily one of the most visible churches in San Antonio. This Roman Catholic church is known for its iconic Gothic and Gothic Revival architecture, an iconic landmark since 1731. A group of 15 families from the Canary Islands founded the church, which is the oldest continuously-functioning religious community in Texas. It’s also the first church to be founded in the city, meaning it’s packed with history and heart.
Photo via Instagram / champagnechynna
Little Church of La Villita
508 Villita St,
Though it serves as more of a venue than a functioning church, the Little Church at La Villita is not one to be skipped. Open to all beliefs and backgrounds, this historic indoor chapel makes for a traditional, yet progressive spot to tie the knot. Non-denominational services have been held, as well as a food pantry to benefit the needy.
Photo via Instagram / ljher
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Sacred Heart Chapel
411 SW 24th St,
Housed at the Our Lady of the Lake University campus, the Sacred Heart Chapel is the result of a 28-year project that resulted in this gorgeous English Gothic chapel. Considered a “dream fulfilled” since its mid-1900s completion, the intricate details in this chapel will floor you, so take your time to appreciate every inch of this space.
Photo via Instagram / jencey
Travis Park Church
230 E Travis St,
Sitting across the street from Travis Park, this Methodist church was established in 1846 with a vision, though it highlights its history. The community today is welcoming of all walks of life, thinking of church-goers and visitors alike as brothers and sisters. They seek to “live and love as God does,” and has been noted for its acceptance of the LGBTQ community. That makes this badass beautiful inside and out, both in its mission and physical building.
Photo via Instagram / travtrev
Mission Concepción
807 Mission Road,
Though known as a landmark, Mission Concepción is in fact a functioning church. Built in a traditional Spanish Colonial architecture style and opened after 20 years of building in the mid-1700s, the mission was first home to Franciscan friars, who...well… basically colonized Native Americans living in the area. The self-sufficient village included the church, a plaza, living quarters, a rectory and a defensive perimeter to protect the grounds. Due to disease, indigenous relations and Native Americans fleeing the grounds, the mission was secularized by 1824, though the Catholic Church was part of its restoration and current functioning as a parish. It also hold a bit of Texas history as the Battle of Concepción, considered the first major engagement of the Texas Revolution, took place here in October 1835.
Photo via Instagram / jess_frazier
St. Mark's Episcopal Church
315 E Pecan St,
Completed in 1875 after 16 years of building, St. Mark’s was designed by a famed architect by the name of Richard Upjohn from New York City. It was one of Upjohn’s few projects west of the Mississippi, and one that included Gothic Revival influence. Fun fact: this is where former President Lyndon B. Johnson married Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson on November 17, 1934.
Photo via Instagram / matthewlikesart
Grace Lutheran Church
504 Ave E,
Though downtown development has happened all around, Grace Lutheran Church has stood proud – and gorgeously so – through the years. The progressive church has key values that it has stayed true to while making outreach a vital part of its ministry. Founded in 1903 to serve the English-speaking Lutheran community, the church is prized for its intricate stone masonry and bell tower. From the grand exterior to the simpler, yet still beautiful exterior, this place of worship will take your breath away.
Photo via Instagram / starrynite70
St. Joseph's Catholic Church
623 E Commerce St,
As the fourth oldest Catholic parish in SA, St. Joseph’s in downtown has a lot of history. It’s stood against development that’s happened all around it – literally. You might know this church better as St. Joske’s – as it’s the church that Rivercenter, where the flagship Joske’s department store formerly stood, surrounds. The church was built to serve the community of German immigrants, who worked to make improvements to the parish in the decades after its founding. Mass services were recited in German and everything in the early days of this Gothic-style church. Today, the church’s parishioners are multicultural while tourists are daily attendees too.
Photo via Instagram / viajento
Madison Square Presbyterian Church
319 Camden St,
Identifying as a “historic church with a progressive spirit,” Madison Square Presbyterian is undeniably beautiful. The church, housed in a beautiful limestone building, was founded in 1882 and now serves as an open, welcoming community filled with the spirit. The church prides itself in being inclusive of all types of folks, making diversity a strong point.
Photo via Instagram / amandasi1
Laurel Heights United Methodist Church
227 W Woodlawn Ave,
Over in Monte Vista you can swing by a beautiful Methodist church that was founded in 1909. Designed by noted local architect Atlee B. Ayres, Laurel Heights UMC served as a home for soldiers at the Balloon School at Camp John Wise during World War I, even providing entertainment and events for the troops. Swing by for a visit packed with history and beautiful sights, including the roof-top garden at the education building.
Photo via Instagram / h4design
Jefferson United Methodist Church
758 Donaldson Ave,
Located in the Deco District, this church definitely has that “wow” factor. While the Wheeler Chapel is more laid-back, the sanctuary is absolutely stunning. Complete with tall ceilings, a backlit altar and colorful stained-glass windows, this space has the look of a quintessential church.
Photo via Instagram / this_world_is_not_my_home
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower
1715 N Zarzamora St,
In a Beaux-Arts architecture style, the basilica evokes an emotional reaction even from San Antonians who may not be religious. The church was dedicated in 1931 as a shrine to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the “Little Flower.” This beautiful Roman Catholic church is one of less than 100 churches in the U.S. designated as a “minor basilica.” Due to its spiritual significance and undeniable beauty, the basilica was also named to the National Register of Historic Places.
Photo via Instagram / skylinedronetx

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