Mission San Xavier del Bac
1950 W. San Xavier Road
(520) 294-2624 FAX: (520) 294-3438
Open every day of the year
The gift shop is closed only on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day.
Self guided tour. Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Mission San Xavier del Bac is located nine miles southwest of Tucson
in the Santa Cruz Valley. The brilliant white of the church is
in sharp contrast to the earth tones of the surrounding land and the
purples of the mountains.
O'odham Indian tribes were settled in the valley when Jesuit
missionary and explorer, Father Eusebio Francisco Kino first visited
the area in 1692. The Indians called the area Bac which meant “where
water appears”, as the Santa Cruz River, which ran underground
in some areas came to the surface nearby.
In 1700 Father Kino laid foundations for a church about two miles
from the present church. He named it after his chosen patron
saint St. Francis Xavier (in Spanish Xavier is pronounced Havier).
The present church was built between 1783 and 1797. One of the
mysteries is that no one has ever discovered who the architect and
artisans were. Another mystery is the question why was the dome
on the right hand tower never completed?
Many experts believe San Xavier Mission to be the finest example of
mission architecture in the United States.
As visitors enter the church, they are struck by the brilliance of
the gilded area behind the high alter. The many arches created
walls that are covered with original paintings. Sadly, time,
the heat of the desert summers and the thousands of candles that have
been burned over the centuries have covered and discolored the walls,
statues and alter.
Patronato is the name given to the group which has dedicated itself
to the upkeep of the mission. In 1989 this group began raising
money to restore the interior of the church. The restoration
was a six year project. The east and west alters took two years
and the dome paintings were restored in the third year. Cleaning
and using chemicals to restore the gold and silver leaf that covered
the main alter took two years. The sixth and final year of the
interior work restored the choir loft, the area below the loft and
Beginning in 2001, conservators Timothy Lewis and Matilde Rubio were
hired to work on the interior of the church and to clean and make repairs
on painted and sculptured art and on the walls where needed. Lewis
is one of the Tohono
O'odham from the district of San Xavier who trained in conservation
techniques as one of the apprentices working with professional European
conservators at the mission between 1992-1997. Under Patronato
and church, he received further training in Salzburg, Austria and Rome,
where he met his wife. Since 1997 they have spent most of their time
in Spain where they have been employed as a team working on several
high profile conservation projects.
The work to stabilize the dome and outer walls of the church alone
has cost over 1.5 million dollars. In order to maintain the upkeep
of the mission complex, the Patronato has established an endowment
fund to ensure the mission remains in good condition.
After more than two hundred years, 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 primarily serves
O'odham, but is open to all.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the preservation of this historic
mission may send a tax-deductible donation to:
Patronato San Xavier
P.O. Box 522
Tucson, Arizona 85702
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