We love the fact that on our days off from work camping, we can take the time to enjoy the beauty around us. We were told by the locals that Mission San Xavier del Bac was an experience that we really couldn’t miss while we are here in Tucson.
Mission San Xavier del Bac is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona and is widely considered to be the finest example of Spanish architecture in the United States. It is located just 9 miles south of downtown Tucson and draws around 200,000 visitors each year.
We decided to take a trip out there to see it this week.
And we were not disappointed!
Mission San Xavier del Bac is affectionately called the “White Dove of the Desert”. It sits on the land of the Tohono O’odham Indians who have protected the mission for hundreds of years.
San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. This particular church was completed in 1797 with the help of the local Tohono O’odham Indians, over 220 years ago!
As we walked inside, we were in awe of the amazing detail in every nook and crevice of this fabulous church.
Little is known about the people who decorated the interior. It is assumed that much of the artwork was probably created by artists from Queretero in New Spain (now Mexico).
The sculptures were created elsewhere and then carried by donkey through the desert to their destination at the Mission.
We were told that what we were seeing today is the result of careful restoration. Because of it’s age, the structure of the Mission obtained damage over the years. An earthquake in 1887 caused major damage, and in 1939, lightning struck the West Tower lantern.
In 1978, a group of community leaders began a five-year program to conserve and restore this national treasure. An international team of conservators were brought in to clean, remove over-painting and repair the beautiful murals and sculptures within the Mission.
Exterior preservation is still in process when funds are available.
Walking the grounds, we discovered several beautiful desert gardens and a small museum and gift shop.
Through the gate, you can walk up to the hill next door that has a large cross on top. The view is worth the small climb.
And don’t miss the local Tohono O’odham Indians who have set up stands in the parking lot selling lots of freshly made fry bread.
I just love it when I run across a totally unexpected sign. Certainly, don’t feed the coyotes.
Apparently they like fry bread too!
If you are visiting the Tucson area, don’t miss this historic landmark! It is free to the public and is an awe inspiring look into ancient architecture, amazing art, and religious history!
Do keep in mind that this is still an active church. Masses are held daily. All are welcome to attend mass, but be aware that no photos are allowed at that time.