San Antonio de Valero was typical of Spanish Colonial Indian missions with regard to layout and function. As a frontier institution and a vital feature of Spain's pioneering system, the mission was charged with the responsibility of Christianizing and instructing the native peoples with the intent of eventually producing useful citizens under the Spanish Crown (Bannon, 1964; Bolton, 1907).
Excavations at the Alamo Shrine [page 13] III. The Architecture
Basically, the Indian mission was a Christian seminar and industrial trade school. The mission architectural complex was, therefore, comprised of buildings which housed these functions. Although each mission on the frontier of New Spain had its own distinct layout, and no two seem to have been built exactly alike, the basic architectural components were always there.
Fundamentally, the mission complex at San Antonio de Valero consisted of a church, convento (friary), granary, workshops, storerooms, and Indian housing. These facilities were contained within a walled enclosure (Fig. 1). This was designed not only for organization and control of the neophytes, but also for defense on a wild frontier. In organization, the church and convento represented the spiritual and administrative center of the mission, while the Indian housing and workshops formed the social and industrial complex. Also belonging to the mission was land nearby for agriculture and pasture.
This report will be primarily concerned with the mission church, the most formal and traditional architectural component within the mission complex. Of all the original buildings which once comprised Mission San Antonio de Valero, only the church (Alamo Shrine) remains standing.
Construction of Mission San Antonio de Valero at its final and present location was well under way by 1727. However, due to the shortage of building materials and unavailability of qualified masons, the large stone church suffered delays in construction; and it was not until May 8, 1744, that the cornerstone was laid (Bolton, 1907: 297). In the meantime, a simple adobe structure, and later, the granary, were used as a temporary church.
The first attempt to construct a large masonry church failed. The church which was begun in 1744 was actually completed, including an arched roof, a dome, and a bell tower; but sometime in the early 1750s it collapsed due to poor workmanship and materials (Fox, Bass, and Hester, 1976, Habig, 1977; Schuetz, 1966). Then, about 1756, reconstruction of the church was undertaken, this time under the direction of a Master Builder. Good building principles and materials were used, and the result was a sturdy structure, most of which remains standing today. The architect or Master Builder who designed and built the church is currently unknown. However, it was Fray Francisco Hidalgo who requested that the church be built and who undoubtedly closely supervised its construction. Inscribed on the decorative keystone above the front doorway is the date, 1757, which probably commemorates the building construction. Unfortunately, the records are not clear on this point, and the church was not completed prior to secularization in 1793.
In plan, the church was laid out in cruciform (Fig. 3) and is 35 Spanish varas (28.75 m) long, floor dimension (varas = 0.84 m or 2.75 ft.). There is a large nave 9 varas (7.60 m) wide for the congregation, a broad transept 17.5 varas (15 m)