The San Xavier Del Bac Mission is located on the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation. The mission was named after the Jesuit Apostle of the Indies, Saint Francis Xavier. Today, “White Dove of the Desert” is the name given to the mission because of its beautiful white adobe brick rising from the desert floor. It is a magnificent building with Spanish mission architecture. This mission stands apart from other missions because of its domes, carvings, arches and flying buttresses. The murals and alter inside the mission are quite impressive.
It all began in the early 1700’s, when the Jesuit Father Eusebio Francisco Kino came through the area in which the mission now stands. Father Kino was sent to help the Native Indians. The Franciscans built the present structure of the mission in 1783 through 1797. The purpose of the mission was to Christianize the Indians and to be the headquarters for a ranch worked by the Indians. In 1828, the missionaries were forced to leave the mission, but in 1911 they returned. Since then, the mission has remained the main church and the school for the Tohono O’odham Indians.
In 1997, an Italian craftsman restored the mission’s interior. This restoration has revealed detailed frescoes and vivid murals. Some say it is the Sistine Chapel of North America.
There are legends about the mission’s missing the right tower. One legend says that it was never completed because of a tax that the Spanish government would have exercised if the mission had been completed. Another says that the Apache Indians destroyed it in the late 19th century. Still another says that if it ever was completed the mission would be destroyed.
Today visitors will have the opportunity to listen to a taped 15-minute lecture about the mission. These lectures are offered every hour. A 45-minute self-guided tour is also available.
There is a museum that has displays of vestments and artifacts for visitors to admire. You will also find small gift shops across from the museum, where you will find a memento of your visit.
The mission is open everyday from 9:30 to 5:30 pm. Church services are Monday through Saturday at 8:30 am and on Sundays 8:00, 9:30, 11:00 and 12:30pm. There is no admission charge, but donations are greatly appreciated. If you would like more information on the mission, you may call 520-294-2624.
You can get to the mission from Tucson by taking Interstate 19, south out of town toward Nogales. Then take exit 92 off of Interstate 19 to the mission. It is about nine miles off the Interstate. If you are coming from Phoenix, take Interstate 10 south out of town to Tucson. Continue through Tucson, until you come to Interstate 19. Take Interstate 19 south down toward Nogales. Travel on Interstate 19, until you come to exit 92. You will get off the Interstate at exit 92 and follow the signs to the mission. It is approximately nine miles off of Interstate 19.
San Xavier Del Bac has withstood the ravages of time and weather, and it stands today in timeless beauty, visited by thousands of visitors each year.