Day Trips: Our Lady of Loreto Chapel, Goliad

The little Loreto Chapel stands tall in history

Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

Our Lady of Loreto Chapel at Presidio La Bahía in Goliad is one of the oldest active churches in the U.S. The stone building is a unique and lovely sanctuary.

Established on the banks of the San Antonio River in 1749, the presidio was Spain's attempt to protect the area's missions and provide a defense against invaders from Louisiana.

The chapel is named for the Annunciation, when Mary learned she was to be the mother of Jesus at what is now Loreto, Italy.

Texas' first Declaration of Independence from Mexico, preceding the official document by 73 days, was signed on the chapel's altar in 1835. Col. James Fannin and his Texan officers were held prisoner in the chapel before being executed on Palm Sunday, 1836.

The presidio has belonged to the Catholic Diocese of Victoria since 1853, and operated as a museum since the 1960s. Most of the structure was rebuilt in a 1963-67 restoration. The thick walls of the chapel, on the other hand, are almost entirely original.

The chapel is known for its architecture as well as its art. It is one of the few buildings in the U.S. with its original arch supported "groin vaulted" ceiling.

In 1946, Antonio Garcia of Corpus Christi, the "Michelangelo of South Texas," painted a mural of the Annunciation behind the altar. The painting has a Texas flavor, with a cactus and rattlesnake.

In a niche above the entrance to the chapel is a statue of Our Lady of Loreto created by Lincoln Borglum, who helped his father, Gutzon Borglum, sculpt Mount Rushmore.

Our Lady of Loreto Chapel is open daily when the presidio is open, and Mass is held on Sundays at 5pm. On Sept. 15, the Texas Historical Commission officially welcomes Presidio La Bahía and the chapel as the 35th state historic site.

1,669th in a series. Everywhere is a day trip from somewhere: Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog, at

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Our Lady of Loreto Chapel, Goliad, Presidio La Bahía, San Antonio River, Col. James Fannin, Antonio Garcia, Lincoln Borglum, Gutzon Borglum, Mount Rushmore

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