Originally known as the Mission San Antonio de
Valero, the Alamo, began as a Catholic mission and compound in 1718, one
of many Catholic missions organized as part of the official Spanish plan
Americans and colonize northern New Spain.
The first of five missions to built in what
the mission was established by Father Antonio de San Buenaventura y
Olivares, of the College of Santa Cruz of Querétaroqv, who first visited
the region in 1709. In 1716 Olivares received approval from the Marqués de
Valero, the viceroy of New Spain (Mexico), for a plan to remove to
the dwindling mission of San Francisco Solano, founded in 1700 near the
right bank of the Rio Grande River at the site of present Guerrero,
The viceroy also directed Martín de
Alarcón, governor of Coahuila and Texas, to accompany Olivares with a
military guard. After considerable delay, Olivares and Alarcón
traveled separately to
in the spring of 1718 and the mission was founded on May 1st,
quickly followed by the San Antonio de Béxar Presidio and the civilian
settlement of Villa de Béxar.
The mission, originally located west of
San Pedro Springs, survived three moves and numerous setbacks during
its early years. After a hurricane destroyed most of the existing
buildings in 1724, the mission was re-established on its present site
on the east bank of the San Antonio River. Its earliest buildings were
of temporary construction, but, were replaced throughout the years
with more permanent structures.
Work began on the stone convento, or
priest’s residence, by 1727. Replacing earlier adobe structures, the
two-story, arcaded stone building eventually included two wings along
the west and south edges of an inner courtyard, immediately north of
the church. The convento, now known as the long barracks, also served
to house the friars, offices, kitchens, dining room, and guest rooms.
Over the next several decades, the mission
would continue to struggle, being continually harassed by hostile
Indians and becoming the victim of a smallpox and measles
epidemic in 1739, which devastated the
Indians of the mission.
However, by the 1740’s the mission’s
Indian population began to increase again. In 1744, work on a stone
church began. However, there was obviously a flaw in the building
plan, as the church, its tower, and the sacristy collapsed in the
With the mission now serving more than 300 Indians, work on a new church began in 1758 with an ambitious plan.
Built in a cross design, it was to include a sacristy, choir loft,
barrel-vaulted roof, twin bell towers, a dome, and an elaborately
carved façade. Constructed of 4 feet thick limestone blocks, it was
intended to be three stories high. However, as the number of mission
Indians declined, work stalled, and the upper level, bell towers
and dome were never begun.