The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 629
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JESUS F. DE LA TEJA, Editor
The Art and Architecture of the Texas Misszons. ByJacinto Quirarte. (Austin: Univer-
sity of Texas Press, 2002. Pp. 241. Preface, introduction, glossary, bibliogra-
phy, index. ISBN 1-292-76902-43. $60.oo, cloth.)
The physical remains of the Texas missions founded in the eighteenth century
continue to enrapture professional academics as well as tourists and aficionados
of history. Jacinto Quirarte, Professor Emeritus, History of Art and Criticism,
University of Texas at San Antonio, has sought to fill a void in the historiography
of the missions by addressing their art and architecture.
The core of the work is a research project undertaken in 1981 and 1982, "on
the decorative and applied arts of the four San Antonio missions which comprise
the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park," namely Concepci6n, San
Jose, San Juan Capistrano, and San Francisco de la Espada (p. ix). In this ex-
panded version, Quirarte has added reviews of San Antonio de Valero (the
Alamo) and El Espiritti Santo at Goliad. (Regarding the Alamo, the author
failed to note the rather recent find of the 1849 daguerreotype of the Alamo
now at the Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin, and the
contract for the construction of its facade available in microfilm.) The work is
therefore more properly a review of the missions along the San Antonio River
from the available archival and archeological record. Since only archeological
remains exist for East Texas missions, little could be said in their regard; and, al-
though not explicitly stated, the author is concerned with Spanish-Mexican-era
Texas, which did not include the missions in the El Paso area.
Chapters devoted to the individual missions begin with a pr6cis, which is fol-
lowed by a chronological gleaning from the various reports, plans of the mis-
sions, dimensions of various structures in table format, interior decoration of
the church and sacristy, furnishings and sacred items, the facade and its icono-
graphic meaning, and a brief historical context to the activity that occurred
within the mission compound. Quirarte clearly identifies new decorative ele-
ments (altars, statues, paintings) that have been added since most of the origi-
nal items have long been lost. The author also notes the often extensive
twentieth-century reconstruction at most of the mission sites. These chapters,
while most satisfying in providing specific information, also give new perspective
to the importance of symbolism in Roman Catholic art and architecture. This
latter point is succinctly summarized in two final chapters. Meaning is attached
to geometric forms (the triangle, square, circle, and octagon), decorative plants
and flowers, and colors as well as the more familiar religious figures. These
forms, symbols, and iconography were used to teach neophytes Catholic Chris-
tian belief: humanity's relationship to the deity and understanding of the con-
cepts of the Trinity, the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, Christ as
the Messiah, Christian saints as role models, and so on.
While federal park survey reports tend to be dry reading as they catalog relevant
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/707/: accessed December 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.