Sunday, February 6, 2011

San Xavier Mission del Bac ~ Tucson, Arizona

We love rv’ing to places that have treasures that we wouldn’t otherwise see. Tucson, AZ offers some of those and we enjoyed visiting them during our stay there. The San Xavier Mission del Bac (pronounced “hauv-e- air”) is just one of those treasures. It is referred to as the White Dove of the Desert and is the spirit of Spanish Mission history. Bac is ‘where a stream emerges’ which is no longer at this location in the Sonoran Desert but was there when the mission began.
San Xavier Mission del Bac, Tucson, AZ
The Mission is one of eight missions established in Arizona between the years 1687–1720 and is located 16 km (10 mi) south of Tucson.  It remains in remarkable condition and is considered the most remarkable relic north of Mexico.

Architecture details on San Xavier Mission, AZ
An earthquake in 1887 damaged the church and there have been several years of interior restorations done in the meantime.  Today’s mission was built 1783-1797 of stone and brick and the mortar used in that day has retained the consistency of cement to this day, but sadly the process is now lost. 

Church services in San Xavier Mission, AZ
The mission is open daily and has many visitors come to see this National Historic Landmark (1960).  A winter mass schedule is posted for those that wish to attend church. There was a service ongoing during our visit with a large crowd that overflowed outside the beautiful doors, the interior of the church is incredible. 

Meeting room in San Xavier Mission, AZ
The original Franciscan planners of San Xavier may have dreamed of making this mission the center of a larger system but the dream never materialized as the remote San Xavier Mission was manned by only one or two friars.  The room shown here was reserved for practices such as reading and discussions, high level meetings and elections but would normally only be found in the large missions.

Monument in San Xavier Mission patio
In 1989 an exterior preservation was begun to remove the 1980 renovation coat of cement plaster.  They repair the historic brick beneath then re-finish the exterior surface with traditional lime plaster. Although there didn’t seem to be anything in progress during our visit, there is a difference in the finish between the two towers so we expect the renovations to continue.

San Xavier Mission patio, Tucson, AZ
The mission buildings are gathered next to the church with a monumental entrance consisting of seven arches surrounding the patio.  A school has been maintained by the clergy of the parish for the past 35 years.  The school is for the benefit of the Papago children, (now called Tohono O’odham) whose ancestors protected the abandoned mission from destruction by the Apaches.

White Dove of the Desert, Tucson, AZ

One of the towers remains unfinished but there is no reason given, although there are myths about it. An early myth suggests that taxation laws exempted buildings under construction so they chose to leave it unfinished. Another legend is that the second tower is being left unfinished until the “Excellent Builder” comes to direct its completion.

We visited other missions while in San Antonio last year, click here if you wish to learn about those missions and click here to learn about the Mission of the Alamo.


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