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In San Antonio, Art Tells 'The Saga' of the City

Xavier de Richemont's video installation in the heart of San Antonio fuses heritage, history and digital art.

A city rich in cultural heritage, Texas history and patrons of the arts, San Antonio was a natural fit for French artist Xavier de Richemont’s world-renowned video art installations that combine digital art with projection mapping, choreographed music and narrative storytelling. Just one year after the opening  of “San Antonio | The Saga,” the installation has never been more awe-inspiring. 

Located in the Main Plaza, a historic site in itself as a social hub and community gathering area for early San Antonians, de Richemont’s “San Antonio | The Saga” debuted last summer on the façade of the plaza's San Fernando Cathedral. The 7,000-square-foot “video painting,” as the artist calls his signature works, depicts the birth and growth of San Antonio, from its humble beginnings in the early 1700s through the Texas Revolution, to the capture of Native American Chief Geronimo and the Civil War in the late 1800s, and finally to the vibrant, dynamic and diverse community it has become.

San Fernando Cathedral
The San Fernando Cathedral is home of de Richemont's installation until 2024, and is also the oldest operating church in the U.S. (©Xavier de Richemont)

Now the mother church of the archdiocese of San Antonio—and the oldest operating sanctuary in the U.S.—the San Fernando Cathedral was originally completed in 1749 as Texas’ first parish church. Its original walls are oldest standing structure in the Lone Star State, making it somewhat of a sacred canvas on which to display de Richemont’s art.

The intricate installation, a marriage of artistic expression and multi-sensory narrative, condenses a 300-year history lesson into less than a half-hour, and plays a total of 12 times weekly. Using a diverse soundtrack played in surround sound to accompany the ever-evolving graphics, “San Antonio | The Saga” lends itself to multiple viewings. “Every time I watch it, I catch something I hadn’t noticed before,” said Tom Matula, director of marketing for the Main Plaza Conservancy, adding that most audience members have seen “The Saga” multiple times and express the same sentiment.

San Antonio | The Saga, by Xavier de Richemont
The San Fernando Cathedral depicts the Texas Revolution during "The Saga." (©San Antonio CVB)

Its home in the historic colonial plaza, one of only four left in the country, is evidence that history repeats itself; the production has been widely embraced by both local residents and visitors, all of whom flock the “heart of the city” to watch the insightful and grippingly beautiful production.

As for the Main Plaza, its intended purpose as a unifying hub for the community has been restored. Commissioned by the Conservancy, the city of San Antonio and generous public and private organizations, the installation was a collaborative effort that preserves San Antonio’s legacy, yet also demonstrates its promising future.

Catch the mesmerizing 24-minute installation every Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with show times at 9 pm, 9:30 and 10. Just come back before 2024, when it will be gone. 115 N. Main Ave., mainplaza.org

SLIDESHOW: ‘San Antonio | The Saga’

(All photos ©Xavier de Richemont)