A couple having an evening drink in front of San Fernando Cathedral, San Antonio, Texas USA

Alamy Stock Photo

San Fernando Cathedral

San Antonio

Founded in 1731, San Antonio’s cathedral ranks as the oldest church in Texas. On the edge of Main Plaza, its prime interest for modern visitors is as a screen – literally – for San Antonio: The Saga, a sound and light show.

The sound and light show

This 24-minute-long after-dark art installation tells the story of the city with dazzling colorful effects, projected onto the cathedral's facade four nights a week (9pm, 9:30pm and 10pm, Tuesday and Friday to Sunday; free). 

An image of a Native American projected onto the facade of a cathedral
The light show on the cathedral has drawn visitors since 2014 © kellyvandellen / Getty Images


The cathedral itself played a crucial role in the 1836 Battle of the Alamo. As James Bowie – who had been married in San Fernando in happier times – defended the Alamo across the river, Mexican general Santa Anna commandeered the church as an observation post. His act of raising a flag of "no quarter", meaning he would take no prisoners, began the deadly siege.

On little evidence beyond the fact that they bore fragments of uniforms – and even though the Alamo defenders didn't wear uniforms – charred bones unearthed near the altar in 1936 were claimed to be those of Davy Crockett, William Travis and James Bowie. They’re now housed in a marble casket just inside the left entrance of the church.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby San Antonio attractions

1. Spanish Governor's Palace

0.11 MILES

The name now attached to this low-profile adobe structure is an exaggeration. When built in 1722, it was the home and office of the captain of the local…

2. River Walk

0.27 MILES

The River Walk is a 15-mile-long glorious network of waterside pathways that’s tucked below street level and lined with bars and restaurants. It's the…

3. Briscoe Western Art Museum

0.31 MILES

Devoted as much to general Western history as it is to art, this small downtown museum pays its respects to cowboys, Hispanic settlers, Native Americans…

4. La Villita Historic Arts Village

0.33 MILES

History meets commerce at downtown's La Villita. San Antonio's first neighborhood, this 'little village' of stone and adobe houses dates back to the early…

5. Buckhorn Saloon & Museum

0.33 MILES

Waaaay back in 1881, when the Buckhorn Saloon first opened, the owner promised patrons a free beer or shot for any deer antlers they brought in. Although…

6. Artpace

0.36 MILES

This unique contemporary museum hosts temporary exhibitions by its outstanding artists-in-residence, who are selected from a pool drawn from across Texas,…

7. Ripley's Alamo Plaza Attractions

0.39 MILES

Time to throw the kids a bone? After touring historical sites all day, you can reward them with a visit to this teen-friendly trio: Ripley's Haunted…

8. The Alamo

0.47 MILES

For proud Texans, the much-fabled Alamo, entered freely off San Antonio’s central plaza, is not so much a tourist attraction as a place of pilgrimage…