Presidio La Bahía, designated a National Historic Landmark, is considered the world's finest example of a Spanish frontier fort. This is the most fought over fort in Texas history, participating in six National Revolutions/Wars for independence. Spanish, Mexican and Texas soldiers all garrisoned its fortified walls. This “Crossroads of Revolution” felt almost every attempt to forcibly change the governmental order of Texas.
Presidio La Bahía is a fort, not a mission. The chapel was erected in the quadrangle for the sole use of the soldiers and Spanish settlers living in the town of La Bahía surrounding the fort. The name given the chapel was "Our Lady of Loreto," and is the oldest building in the compound in continuous use since the 1700s.
One of the oldest churches in America, it also is one of the only buildings in existence that has its original "groin vaulted ceiling" in place. The striking fresco behind the altar was done in 1946 by the "Michelangelo of South Texas," renowned Corpus Christi artist Antonio Garcia. Located in the niche above the chapel entrance is a statue of Our Lady of Loreto sculpted by Lincoln Borglum, who oversaw the completion of Mount Rushmore.
This centuries-old chapel was where Fannin's men were held during part of their captivity before being massacred. The First Declaration of Texas Independence was signed inside the chapel.
After the Texas Revolution of 1836, while other buildings of the Presidio fell into neglect and disrepair, the chapel was still used as a place of worship, and at one time was temporarily used as a private residence. An act of the Republic of Texas in 1841 restored church properties confiscated by the Republic. It was not until 1855 that the first non-Hispanic Bishop of Texas, Bishop J.M. Odin, received title from the Town Council of Goliad. Through the loving devotion of the residents, the chapel continues its existence as a place of worship.
More than 33,000 people visit the Presidio each year. About 3,000 people attend the annual Goliad Massacre-Fort Defiance Living History Program each year. Click on the Living History Program button above to learn more about this reenactment of the battle of Coleto Creek and the massacre of Colonel Fannin and his men, on Palm Sunday, 1836.
When a visitor walks into the Presidio's entrance, they are instantly surrounded by the rich history of Spanish and Texas life styles of the 1800s. The museum includes the artifacts found at the Presidio as well as personal items of individuals who lived and worked at the Presidio, a short version of the award winning film "Presidio La Bahía And Its Place In Texas History" The video was first place winner in the Sons of the Republic of Texas 34th annual Presidio La Bahía awards competition -- the only video to ever win the award, and a gold citation winner -- the highest award given in the Texas Association of Museums Mitchell A. Wilder competition.
After touring the museum, visitors are free to walk the grounds of the Presidio. Visit the chapel that held over 300 of Colonel Fannin's men for a week prior to their massacre. Please remember, the chapel is an active church, visitors are asked to treat it with respect. There are also two grave sites inside the chapel. To the left of the altar is the grave of Carlos De La Garza. Another grave site about halfway into the chapel from the front doors and on the left is a mass grave. Outside of the chapel is a marked grave of Annie L. Taylor. A total of 15 grave sites have been located inside and outside the chapel. This is not unusual, as there are over 900 documented graves outside the Alamo church in San Antonio.
Outside the chapel, visit the rest of the Presidio grounds (Quadrangle). Here a visitor can get the feel of what it was like to live in a Mexican military installation in 1836.
You can even spend the night at Presidio La Bahía! Known as "The Quarters," it is adjacent to the museum and once served as priest’s quarters. Guests have free access to the Presidio grounds after hours and can come and go through private entries. This is a popular stay for many people. Inquire about "The Quarters " before your visit.
The presidio complex consists of the officer's quarters, which is now the museum, the Our Lady of Loreto Chapel, and the enlisted men's barracks all of rock construction and all connected by an eight foot high wall.
Presidio La Bahía is one of only forty National Historic Landmarks in the State of Texas and is listed in Fitzroy and Dearborn’s International Dictionary of Historic Places as one of the 186 most historic places in the Americas.
Throughout the year, several living history programs are held at Presidio La Bahía, the largest being the Goliad Massacre-Fort Defiance Living History program each March. The two-day event has been a yearly event since 1986, with several thousand people attending.
The reenactors study the lives of individuals from the Texas Revolution in 1836. Visitors are encouraged to ask questions of the reenactors. But remember, some of the reenactors are in first person. Therefore, they only know of events up to their capture after the battle of Coleto Creek. They will know nothing of events beyond that day.
Presidio La Bahía is operated by the Texas Historical Commission. A group of supporters called "Friends of the Fort" make annual contributions which make the living history programs possible as well as paying for items of need.