The rose window at the San José Mission in San Antonio is known as much for its mystery as for its beauty. First of all, the window isn’t where it’s supposed to be. You’d expect something known as the finest example of Spanish colonial ornamentation in the United States to be situated above the entrance to the mission’s main church, keeping company with the glorious carvings of pious saints. An oval portal has that position of honor; the Rose Window, an elegant anomaly on an otherwise barren wall of worn and crumbling stone, adorns the sacristy around the corner. No one knows why the window is so ornate—sacristy windows are traditionally simple—and no one knows what it was used for; steps inside the sacristy leading up to the window suggest only that someone might have preached a special service from its height. No one knows who made the window or how it got its name, either. The Rose Window, it can be said with certainty, keeps its own counsel.
In its silence, it projects a beauty that manages to be both serene and eccentric. The Rose Window is imposing—nearly seven feet tall—but is set only four and a half feet above ground