The popular story goes that after his departure, construction at Espada ground to a halt and that the stones for the doorway were put into storage. Years later it was decided to enlarge the existing stone sacristy to become their church. They pulled the stones out of storage, modified them to fit the smaller opening, and that is what you see today. Close inspection leads you to believe that the current arrangement of the arch is not what Tello had designed.
In order to experiment with the the different possible arrangements, a 1/3rd scale model was constructed with magnetic backing. It has long been suggested that to get a narrower width they had simply transposed the bottom two stones from one side to the other. In making that change on the model everything lines up to form a traditional semicircular Roman Arch. It has been speculated that Tello used the same basic architectural footprint for all of the churches so it's likely that the dimensions of the doorways would be similar. A measurement of the entrance doors of the two Tello designs that are still intact, Concepcion and Valero, show that both were 6 ft. wide. Placing the side pillars of the model at 6 ft shows a very good fit. It is obvious that the support pillars had also been shortened so that the doorway would fit under the choir loft that was there at the time. Measurement of the inside height of the doorway at Concepcion is 9 ft. By modifying the pillar length to attain that same height at Espada, you get a doorway that looks aesthetically and proportionally correct. More importantly, the modified pillar length is almost exactly the same as those at Concepcion.
CONCEPCION TELLO DOORWAY
ESPADA TELLO ARCH
ESPADA CURRENT ARCH
Mission Concepcion was the only one of the Tello designed churches that was completed. Completed in 1755, it is the oldest unreconstructed stone churches in the United States.
ESPADA TELLO DOORWAY
The columns were made in sections and it appears that on the right side one some of the sections were removed to shorten it. This layer of bricks was added to attain the height needed. For unknown reasons it appears that the left hand column was made later, with both inferior material and workmanship, to match the shortened right column. Espada was the only mission that made their own bricks, and these bricks were actually formed before firing to simulate the shape of the original stone. When covered with plaster it would have been indestinguishable from the stone.