San Antonio de Bexar: A Guide and History Page: 20
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SAN ANTONIO DE BEXAR.
Mission of San Juan.
The Third Mission, or Mission San Juan de Capistrano was named after
Santa Giovanni di Capistrano, a friar of the Franciscan order who was born in the
year 1386 in the little town of Capistrano in the Abruzzi in Italy, or rather in
what was formerly the kingdom of the two Sicilies. The Mission was begun in
1731 on March 5th. It is situated on the left or east bank of the river about six
miles from San Antonio, a very picturesque locality by the San Juan ford and
bridge. The settlement there is called Berg's Mill after a Scouring Mill erected
some years ago. The S. A. & A. P. R. R. Depot goes by that name also.
About a half mile from this settlement on the right or west bank of the River is
the old aqueduct already alluded to in the introductory to the Missions-this
aqueduct takes water over the Piedra creek for the use of the Fourth Mission
lands. Mission San Juan is less remarkable and distinguished than the other
two just described but has its points of interest. Its square is well defined and
the design of a complete Mission can be made out with less difficulty here and at
the Fourth Mission than at the others. Its little granary, its chapel, its ruined
convent or monastery which must have been a building of some importance in its
day, and the foundations of a chapel which was never completed are all objects of
interest. These main buildings unlike those of the First and Second Missions
form parts of and are built into the boundary or rampart walls. A number of
Mexican families live here, some of the members of which possess marked Indian
features. In the neighborhood of San Juan there are more traces of the Indian
in faces and characteristics than anywhere else in Texas. The best time to note
this is on a Sunday afternoon when they usually congregate at one of the houses
near the ford for their weekly cock fight which seems to be the excitement of the
community, that is among the men.
The Chapel of San Juan is very plain and simple in construction. Just four
walls-the tower being merely an elevation of a portion of the East wall with open
arches in it for bells. There is still one bell left. The Chapel is roofless except
for one small room at the south end which is walled off by an adobe wall and
which is used as a Sacristy, vestry, and receptacle for the small remaining stock of
figures, books, pictures and other such bric-a-brac. The inside of the walls of
the Chapel, however, will afford to such as care for that sort of thing a few min-
utes interesting study in rude frescoing. The frescoes are almost obliterated by
exposure to the weather andthe wonder is that they have not long since been washed
entirely off by heavy rains. They are a curious mixture of Old and New World
ideas. Detail of Moorish design, a Roman arch, an Indian figure and pigments.
"These frescoes," says Father Bouchu, "I think are of later date than the comple-
tion of the Chapel and they were probably permitted, to satisfy the Indian na-
ture's love of color." A painted rail about four feet high running around the
Chapel first attracts the eye, then the elaborately painted Roman Arch in red
and orange over the doorway. The design of this decoration is decidedly of a
Moorish caste, zigzag strips and blocks of color with corkscrew and tile work,
and pillars of red and orange blocks. These pillars are about twelve feet high and
support another line or rail of color and upon this upper line are a series of fig-
ures of musicians each playing a different instrument. The figures for some rea-
son are much more indistinct than their instruments, the latter being accurately
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Corner, William. San Antonio de Bexar: A Guide and History, book, 1890; San Antonio, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth143549/m1/54/: accessed May 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting University of Texas Health Science Center Libraries.