Other San Antonio Musings

When we arrived in San Antonio for two weeks, our top priority was to just sit back and relax for a while but with so much opportunity for exercise with the River Walk right out our front door, so much history to immerse ourselves in, and so many places to see, relaxation just had to take a back seat.

Whenever we go to a city where there is this much history, we always seem to gravitate towards the churches in the area and San Antonio was no different.

San Fernando Cathedral is the nation’s oldest cathedral, listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.  It was built between 1738 and 1750 and was named for Ferdinand III of Castile, who ruled in the 13th century.  In 1868 it was enlarged considerably in the Gothic style.

Besides being the nation’s first cathedral, it is also renown for having been the location where the Battle of the Alamo originated.  It was here that General Antonio López de Santa Anna, leader of the Mexican troops, hoisted a flag of “no quarter” (meaning no clemency or no mercy for their enemies), marking the beginning of the 13-day siege.

It is also here, in the sanctuary, where the remains of William Travis and James Bowie, co-commanders, as well as Davey Crockett, congressman and defender of the Alamo, are entombed.

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church was constructed in 1868 for the booming German immigrant population of that time.  It is the city’s 4th Catholic parish and the mass was originally said in German.  The congregation has dwindled over the years as commercial office and retail space has engulfed it.  The interior was worth a few photos, as you can see below.

The King William Historic District is a 25-block area near downtown that was one of the most elegant residential areas in San Antonio in the 1800’s.  Given the number of stunning homes that we saw while strolling through this area, it would be easy to say that King William still holds this title.

The San Antonio Museum of Art is housed in a lovely 1904 historic brewery complex.  While we were there an exhibit entitled “5000 Years of Chinese Jade” was being shown and it was quite impressive, along with the Latin American art, which reminded us of our time in Mexico, but the most notable installation, in my opinion, was in the Asian art gallery, the Medicine Buddha Sand Mandala.

The mandala in this collection was created by a group of Tibetan monks from Drepung Loseling monastery in Karnatoka, India in 2001.  It is one of only four in the US and approval had to be gained to keep it intact.

The mandala is created using colored sands and is painstakingly laid down by the use of tubes, funnels, and scrapers until the desired pattern is achieved.  These symbolic works of art typically take several weeks to create, due to the intricate detail.  Once completed, the mandala is dismantled after a set period of time, as this represents impermanence, a key teaching in Buddhism.  This deterioration is often a highly ceremonial affair.

We are always on the hunt for a farmers’ market when we arrive in a city and the Pearl Brewery was to be our destination.

Pearl Brewery was a working brewery from 1883 until 2001, when an enterprising company, Silver Ventures, Inc. purchased the property and made it the crown jewel in the revitalization efforts of northern downtown San Antonio.  It is now a cultural and culinary destination, with restaurants, boutiques, an Aveda teaching school and a culinary institute.  Saturday morning is the farmers’ market and it was very nice indeed, offering fresh vegetables, meats, baked goods, cheeses, honey, and chocolate, to name a few.

Sadly, our time here in San Antonio is drawing to an end, but we have Big Bend National Park to look forward to next, so we head down the road once again.

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