When you visit the San Antonio Mission — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — on Saturday’s walks during the Texas Trail Roundup you will no doubt be struck, as many are, by the plain, clean lines of the weathered native stone silhouetted against the clear blue Texas sky. Beautiful, simply beautiful. If you wandered by 250 years ago, though, you would have seen a very different picture: the missions were painted!

As Shannon Miller, City Directory of Historic Preservation explains, “When the missions were constructed, they had an elaborate facade. Those have been lost and faded away. But through research, historians have a good idea as to what they looked like.”

The City hired architectural firm Ford, Powell & Carson, which specializes in historic preservation, to research the original facades of Missions San José and Concepción. Their meticulous findings were digitized and incorporated into two spectacular light shows, projected onto the mission’s facades.

The image at the top is of the digital restoration of Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo.

Below you can see what Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña looks like today, and also view one of the interior frescos (this one, on the convento ceiling, was known as the “Eye of God”) that were uncovered in when the Mission went through a 1988 restoration.

There has been a lot of interest in making the light shows permanent but as preservation architect Rachel Wright explained, “There are technical difficulties that prevent that right now. There’s currently no place to mount the lights that wouldn’t be visually intrusive.” For now, use you imagination. The video below shows the “reveal” of the restored-by-light Mission Concepción, which 1,200 people attended in October, 2015: Wow!

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