San Xavier del Bac is situated in the Sana Cruz Valley nine miles south
of Tucson Arizona. Whether your interests lie in religion, history or
art, the Mission is an attraction you dont want to miss when visiting
Tucson and Southern Arizona. It is a magnet to those who appreciate art,
statues, sculptures and paintings of these original times.
From the earliest times, the Tohono O'odham Indian settlement, in which
the Mission is located, was called Bac "place where the water appears"
because the Santa Cruz River, which ran underground for some distance
reappears on the surface nearby.
The celebrated Jesuit missionary and explorer, Father Eusebio Francisco
Kino, first visited Bac in 1692. Eight years later in 1700, Father Kino
laid the foundations of the first church, some two miles north of the
present site of the Mission. He named it San Xavier in honor of his chosen
patron, St. Francis Xavier, the illustrious Jesuit "Apostle of the
In 1768, Fray Francisco Hermengildo Garces, established his headquarters
at San Xavier. From here this Franciscan Friar set forth on his many missionary
present church was built from 1783 - 1797 by the Franciscan Fathers Juan
Bautista Velderrain and Juan Bautista Llorenz. Little is know about the
actual labor of the construction of the church, who was the architect,
who were the artisans, but many believe it was the Tohono O'odham Indians
who fufilled these roles. Why was the one tower apparently never completed
is still a mystery to this day.
San Xavier Mission is acclaimed by many to be the finest example of mission
architecture in the United States. It is a graceful blend of Moorish,
Byzantine and late Mexico Renaissance architecture, yet the blending is
so complete it is hard to tell where one type begins and another ends.
The church is a series of domes and archs that create onclaves for themes
of painted frescos in the various walls, domes and rooms. The fescos on
the walls are all original, but over time have needed to be touched up.
Time and the harsh desert weather have taken a toll on the church and
the entire mission complex. Xavier has been called the Sistine Chapel
of the New World and in fact, the same Italian artists that worked
on the Sistine Chapel also came to San Xavier to help restore the interior
to its original brilliance.
After more than two hundred years later, the Franciscan Friars are still
here serving the needs of the faithful. San Xavier del Bac Mission is a
fully functioning parish church within the diocese of Tucson. It is a church
that primarially serves the Tohono O'odham, but is open to all.