International Significance

The San Antonio Franciscan Missions' cultural landscape is the finest, extant example of the culmination of Spain’s plans for its mission empire. These five Spanish Colonial mission complexes situated along a 19.3-kilometer section of the San Antonio River basin all contain churches that were the center of the efforts to evangelize the natives. Four remain active Catholic parishes. Also surviving are all the components that were required for the missions to become self-sustaining, socio-economic secular communities: conventos, a granary, a restored mill, a rancho ruins with grazing land for the livestock, farmlands with over ten miles of functional irrigation (acequia) systems, an aqueduct still operating after 265 years, historic roads and trails, intact compounds, and reconstructed Indian quarters around a central plaza. In addition, the intangible cultural heritage is found in the events, language, music, food, dance, literature and art of San Antonio. During the colonization period, Spain wanted these secular communities, replete with Spanish-speaking citizens, loyal to the State and to the Church, to help defend the reaches of its colonial empire against aggression by other colonial powers. Today, this highly intact and authentic cultural landscape is a treasured asset to residents, and has been a “must see” for millions of visitors.

-Dr. Paul Ringenbach (Lead author of the Nomination of the San Antonio Franciscan Missions to be a designated World Heritage Site.)