Drive just 15 minutes south of downtown Tucson, onto the lands of the Tohono O'odham Nation, and you'll come upon "The White Dove of the Desert." Mission San Xavier del Bac was founded in 1692, and the current structure dates to the 1780s.
Enter the mesquite doors of this church with a Moorish-inspired exterior and Baroque façade. Inside, the temperature drops. Allow your eyes to adjust from the Sonoran Desert sun, and the richness of the frescoes and sculptures will begin to reveal themselves. Ornate yet still naïve, this is some of the best Spanish colonial art in the U.S. (The land on which this church stands wouldn't become part of the U.S. until 1854.)
The statue in the lower right of the photo above is of Kateri Tekakwitha--the first Native American to be canonized by the Catholic Church, in October of 2012. San Xavier is still the parish church of the Tohono O'odham people.
Open every day of the year, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The plaza in front of the church is lined with mesquite-ocotillo-saguaro-rib ramadas, where you can often sample local food prepared by Tohono O'odham families.
(San Xavier is grandly proportioned, but intimate. Be respectful of the residents for whom this is still a house of worship and not just amazing architecture.)
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Tucson, Arizona USA
Schedule of Mission San Xavier del Bac
Hours the Mission Church is open to the public: 7:00 am - 5:00 pm daily
(The Mission church will be unavailable at certain times for special services.)
Office Hours: 8:30 am - 4:30 pm (Monday - Friday)
Mass Schedule: Saturday Vigil: 5:30 pm Sunday: 7:00 am, 10:00 am, 11:30 am
Daily: Monday: Communion Service 8:30am (in the Mission church) Tuesday - Friday Mass: 8:30 am (in the Mission church)
A National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797.
The oldest intact European structure in Arizona, the church's interior is filled with marvelous original statuary and mural paintings. It is a place where visitors can truly step back in time and enter an authentic 18th Century space.
The church retains its original purpose of ministering to the religious needs of its parishioners.