Antonio Salazar (1773-?)

Antonio Salazar, described variously as an Indian, mestizo, or criollo, was born about 1733 in Zacatecas, Mexico. Salazar lived and worked at San José at least through mid-1801. Salazar was in charge of the construction of the present church from at least 1779, and probably from about 1773, through its completion in about 1782. He was responsible for the final changes to the San José design that deleted the second bell tower and substituted a parapet with embrasures and false cannon in its place. (Beginning in the mid-1770s, the missionaries started planning for the secularization of the missions, with the necessary cutbacks on expenditures on mission structures.)

His contributions may also include the incomplete church at San Juan, with its odd octagonal sacristy. (The current church was not a converted granary as previously believed, but a structure built partially on the foundation of the granary and extended further.) At Espada he apparently rebuilt the old sacristy/temporary church into a small permanent church after the Dionicio Gonzales church was destroyed about 1775.

Salazar probably designed and built the renovations at Espada’s Rancho de las Cabras, near modern day Floresville, between 1780-85.

Salazar may have worked on the parish church of San Fernando, as many of his predecessors did. He may have been responsible for the vaulted roof, dome, and demioctagonal apse that produced the church seen in the later nineteenth century, a portion of which survives today as the apse to the Cathedral. However, the earliest known reconstruction of the parish church is in 1809 after a fire sometime earlier. This would be a little late for Antonio Salazar, who would have been in his late seventies if he still lived.


A number of master masons were available in San Fernando in the period from 1790 to 1810. For example, the maestros Juan Mendes and Antonio Aguilar were working in the Villa in 1790; Juan de Dios Cortes, of Valero, had lived and worked in the area all his life. Manuel Dionicio of Mission Espada, José Gaspar of San José, and Alberto Morales of San Fernando were also masters. Andres Aguirre had arrived in town in 1807 from La Rintos. Juan Diego Velor from Saltillo, had arrived in 1804, as had Juan Lopes from Alamo de Parras, and Jacobo Aleman from Germany, had come to town in 1806. Other masons, who may not have been masters, were José Antonio Bustillos, who lived at San José and was an active mason from 1786 to 1804, and Cayetano Bustillos, who may have been Antonio’s brother, at San José in 1792 and perhaps later.

Work continued at the secularized missions, although at a much lower rate. For example, a rectory was added against the west wall of the church at San Juan sometime in the mid-nineteenth century Around the same time the Benedictines moved into San José and apparently built a row of residence rooms against the north wall of the convento, where they lived while working on the reconstruction of the convento. Both the San Juan rectory and the San José residence rooms are known only from archeology and structural marks on the walls of the adjacent buildings - no photographs or mention of them are known.


Edited excerpts from the original work “Of Various Magnificence” by Jake Ivey, NPS 2007
Chapter 2: Development and Construction of a Mission on the Texas Frontier

Last updated: December 22, 2016

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