Mission San Xavier del Bac
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Baroque in the Desert
Just nine miles from downtown Tucson stands the 'White dove of the Desert,' the Mission San Xavier del Bac. Built in the late 1700s, it is still the parish church of the local Tohono O'odham tribe. The relatively simple, Moorish-inspired exterior shelters a surprisingly ornate Baroque interior, mostly crafted by Native American artisans when what is now southern Arizona was known as "Pimeria Alta" in the Spanish Empire. (Tucson would not formally be part of the U.S. until the mid-19th century.) My first visit here happened to be on the day after Easter (when the mission is closed to visitors), and a few of the previous day's lilies remained. Many think of 'globalization' as being a modern phenomenon, but standing under the adobe domes of this Spanish colonial structure, it's sobering to think of the influences that traveled across time and longitudes to end up in this church in the Sonoran desert: Byzantine, Spanish Islamic, Renaissance, Baroque, with touches of Native American syncretism. The 'big-box' stores and multiplex-cinema just up the highway: a different universe. To get here from Tucson, take I-19 south, get off on San Xavier Rd. at Exit 92, and head west; you can see the mission ahead of you.
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