An Unexpected Discovery

Fragments of paint visible in the Alamo Sacristy.

Mission San Antonio de Valero is one of San Antonio’s five Spanish missions established by the Franciscans in the early 18th century. Its construction began in around 1720 and the Sacristy was completed in 1756. The remainder of the church was still under construction when the mission was disbanded. Most historians assumed that because Mission San Antonio de Valero remained incomplete it would have been without decorative designs, unlike the other four local missions. However, in 2000 Mary Canales Jary and Alamo conservator Pam Jary Rosser made a startling discovery: painted designs on the walls of the Sacristy.

Getting a Closer Look

A red, yellow and pale green painted floral design on the Alamo’s walls.

To reveal more, conservators worked under magnification, as nine layers of US Army whitewash were shaved off the walls to determine the unknown patterns. The project took eight weeks.

Close up of a golden yellow element of a painted floral design inside the Sacristy.
Close up image of the Alamo’s frescoes showing the design’s black border.

Making the Invisible Visible

Floral fresco in the Alamo Church Sacristy.

As the project continues, in 2012 conservators began using state of the art technology. A multi-spectral camera revealed that under UV light, much more of the floral motif remained than was visible with magnifiers alone. This project continues as Pam discovers more pigment fragments, and begins to reveal a Church that was much more highly decorated than anyone imagined.