Saturday, December 9, 2023

White Dove of the Desert

Our first stop this morning was this gorgeous mission out in the middle of the desert.

Notice that the right tower does not have the dome completed. They ran out of money and their creditors wanted payment. So work stopped and the mission remained without the dome.

San Xavier del Bac Mission was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692 when Southern Arizona was part of New Spain. Construction began in 1783 when Franciscan missionary Fr. Juan Bautista Velderrain borrowed the money from a rancher and used the O'odham people as builders. The church was completed in 1797. In 1854 the Mission became part of the United States. 


Over the years it has suffered several destructive events.

In 1887 an earthquake damaged parts of the church. It wasn't until 1905 that extensive repairs were started. In 1939 a lightning strike hit the West Tower.

In 1978 a comprehensive study was done to determine what restoration needed to be done. Shortly after, there was a disastrous renovation attempt when a layer of cement was applied to the exterior of the building which ended up trapping moisture inside the walls, weakening the structure and let water seep into the west wall of the sanctuary. 


We took the docent tour, which was more a history lesson than a tour. Very informative. (The tour does not take you inside the mission.) She pointed out the Moorish influence in the architecture of the building which is more colorful. 

The inside of the church is in the shape of a Latin cross and is filled with many beautiful ornate statues, carvings, and paintings. 

The mission is on 
Tohono O’odham Nation land and the masses are held mainly for their people but everyone is welcome. 

I'm really glad we decided to add this place to our agenda. The museum was closed when we were there but I do recommend the tour for a whole lot of history.


  1. We've been several times over the years--a gorgeous building--and I never noticed the missing dome!


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