Sunset bathed Mission Concepción in fading light Friday evening, and then cast the mission facade in shadow. Children played catch with one another as parents sat on blankets in front of the historic Mission. When the clock struck 8 p.m., the crowd of about 300 people was transported back in time to 1755, the year Mission Concepción was built.
Light from a projector slowly crept on to the church façade. First, the Mission’s limestone turned a stark white, and then geometrical designs in red, green and yellow overlaid the white background, depicting the original fresco painted on the facade of the church 260 years ago.
Friday night’s “Restored by Light” show is one of the many events happening this weekend to celebrate the recent World Heritage designation of the Spanish colonial Missions and the Alamo. Find a complete list of events here.
The architecture firm Ford, Powell and Carson conducted a study in 2011 to identify the pigments and locations of the original fresco design. Based on that study, the firm recreated the original design to the best of its knowledge.
“We often get the question, ‘Why don’t we rebuild the Missions?’ and the answer is sometimes less than satisfying to people,” said Susan Snow, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park archeologist. “The answer is that we don’t know exactly know what it looked like and we don’t want to recreate something false.”
When Archdiocese Director of the Old Spanish Missions Father David Garcia came to Snow with the idea to recreate the original frescos, Snow had a different plan of action.
“I said, ‘Father David, I have a better idea. Let’s do a light image and we can light it up at night,'” Snow said. “That way if we made a mistake we can change it and we don’t potentially damage the original fabric.”
Councilmember Rebecca Viagran’s eyes widened Friday night when she examined the crowd in front of the Mission in anticipation of the light show. A smile broadened across her face.
“I love the sense of community tonight – everyone playing on the lawn and sitting out on the front yard of our Mission,” she said.