Parishioners watch yearly double illumination at Mission Concepcion

Another illumination set to happen at Mission Espada later this year

SAN ANTONIO – Visitors and parishioners crowded into one of the city's oldest structures Tuesday evening to see an explosion of light.

The once-a-year event that not many San Antonians have ever seen took place at Mission Concepcion.

The double illumination at the mission happens when the sun’s position creates a powerful light effect inside the chapel of the church.

A small round window at the entrance of the church, working with the windows around the chapel, for one brief moment, creates a cascade of sun rays.

“This church is built as a cross, so immediately under the dome, the center of the dome where Christ is illuminated as well, so you have Mary illuminated, you have Christ illuminated, this double illumination. The Indians would have been absolutely amazed at it,” said Father David Garcia, Mission Concepcion director.

The Indians mentioned by Garcia are believed to be the reason the church was built with the light features in the hope of converting them to Catholicism. The mystical sight was designed in several missions around the country, but the double illumination at Mission Concepcion is the only one that happens at a specific moment in time on the day of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, precisely at 6:30 p.m.

“It was hard enough for them to come into a building because that was not what they would do. So this would have been one of the ways that the Franciscans would have brought them in and helped them to understand the theology of what we were talking about, the gospel and Jesus and Mary as the Mother of Jesus,” Garcia said.

“It's amazing that the Franciscans who built this mission had the knowledge about the sun and what it would do,” said Candie Beltrane, a parishioner.

Whoever missed the double illumination can catch another illumination later this year at Mission Espada. It is a single illumination that takes place inside the church on Oct. 4 and lights up a painting of St. Francis. It happens every year around 7 a.m.

Mission Concepcion was built in 1731 and is the oldest mission structure in the country that has not been rebuilt or refurbished.


About the Author:

Ursula Pari has been a staple of television news in Texas at KSAT 12 News since 1996 and a veteran of broadcast journalism for more than 30 years.