San Xavier Mission

I lived on the Sonoran Desert for a number of years while caring for my aged parents. I’m back for a visit right now. The desert can be a stark place and a beautiful place at the same time.  In a ‘wet’ year it blooms green and colorful as the cactus burst forth with so many colorful blossoms and the desert turns green. In years with less moisture the desert is browner with fewer flower blooms.

But, there are some things in the desert that are eternally beautiful. Sunrises and sunsets are no more glorious than what the desert provides. There are natural areas and other places that retain their beauty. One of my favorites is the San Xavier del Bac Mission just south of Tucson. San Xavier is part of the Tohono O’odham Reservation and ministers to the Native Americans therein. And a lot of tourists! I plan to be one of them this trip.


Historically, San Xavier (pronounced Ha-vee-air) was founded in 1692 by Padre (Father) Eusebio Kino. It was named for pioneering Christian missionary and co-founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuit Order), Francis Xavier. There is a ton more history but suffice it to say that Father Kino traveled southern Arizona and Northern Mexico extensively and established more than one mission among the native peoples.

My first experience with San Xavier was of an externally beautiful church that was black inside. Centuries of burning candles caused the interior of this truly gorgeous place to be totally black–walls, ceiling and iconic statues. After stabilizing the exterior, interior restoration began in 2001. I watched the progress both on PBS and with visits to the mission itself. It was a fascinating and heart-warming process to see. The Tohono O’odham people were trained in restoration and did most of it themselves.

Enough said. As you view the photos, keep in mind that everything you see inside was hidden for centuries underneath layers and layers of black soot. Only smokeless candles bought in the mission gift shop can be burned inside now. For good reasons you will see.

Restored statue of Fr. Kino at the altar. 


No one had any idea this amazing artwork was under all that black soot.


Fr. Kino






There are many statues and they restored them all.  Cleaned and did some repair although occasionally there is a missing finger or even hand. The clothing is all brand new and specifically made for each statue. The Native American woman was a surprise but there is a storyto her presence here (you’ll have to visit and read it!).




RestoredMaryStatueI’ve just given you an idea of what is here. There is much more to see and explore. Don’t miss San Xavier Mission the next time you visit Tucson, AZ.  You’ll be happy you did!


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