Great Churches of the World: San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio

stained glass san antonio cathedral

The San Fernando Cathedral was founded in the year 1731 and is home to the oldest religious community in Texas. Those who visit the church are able to observe the quintessential features of Gothic architecture, marvelous stained glass windows, and a piece of history important to the identity of San Antonio.

Indeed, the cathedral is an essential part of San Antonio’s culture and is treasured by both locals and travelers venturing to the city. But what exactly is the story of this unique monument and what secrets does the 281 year old building hold? The experts at Scottish Stained Glass decided to peek a bit further into the church’s history and this is what they discovered.

The church was intended to be the center of life in the city right from the beginning. A group of 15 families traveled to the area which is now San Antonio and commenced the foundation of the church. They had been invited to the region by King Philip V of Spain and had journeyed to Texas all the way from the Canary Islands. It was during this time that the settlers erected the original building, which is now the sanctuary belonging to the existing structure.

1836, the church played an important part in the Battle of the Alamo. Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna raised a flag of “no quarter” from the church’s tower to mark the onset of the siege. This was a signal to the men inside the Alamo that their lives would not be spared. In addition, Jim Bowie, who was a key defender of the Alamo, had been married in the church five years earlier. Many believe that the small coffin inside the San Fernando contains the remains of men who died during the battle.

san fernando stained glass

Later, in 1868, the church was expanded into the Gothic style building that can be seen today. A series of renovations followed thereafter, including the addition of the Stations of the Cross in 1874 when the church was officially named a cathedral and the installation of stained glass windows in 1920. In 1926, it became an archdiocese.

But what other secrets lie inside this ancient building? Well some believe that the cathedral is in fact haunted. Some have claimed to have spotted a white apparition of a horse galloping in front of the church. Others report seeing ghostly faces on the rock walls and mysterious shadows lurking in the darkness.

While it may impossible to know whether or not the church is haunted, one thing is for sure. The cathedral is rich with history. The next time you’re in downtown San Antonio, you should definitely consider stopping by the San Fernando. Even if you’re not venturing on one of the guided ghost tours of the church, it’s definitely worth it to see the stained glass windows and other beautiful examples of art and architecture.

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