Mission San Xavier del Bac
Lonely Planet review for Mission San Xavier del Bac
The dazzling white towers of this mission rise from the dusty desert floor 8 miles south of Tucson – a mesmerizing mirage just off I-19 that brings an otherworldly glow to the scrubby landscape surrounding it. Nicknamed 'White Dove of the Desert,' the original mission was founded by Jesuit missionary Father Eusebio Kino in 1700 but was mostly destroyed in the Pima uprising of 1751. Its successor was gracefully rebuilt in the late 1700s in a harmonious blend of Moorish, Byzantine and Mexican Renaissance styles. Carefully restored in the 1990s with the help of experts from the Vatican and still religiously active, it's one of the best-preserved and most beautiful Spanish missions in the country.
Nothing prepares you for the extraordinary splendor behind its thick walls. Your eyes are instantly drawn to the wall-sized carved, painted and gilded retable behind the altar, which tells the story of creation in dizzying detail. In the left transept the faithful line up to caress and pray to a reclining wooden figure of St Francis, the mission's patron saint. Metal votive pins shaped like body parts have been affixed to his blanket, offered in the hope of healing.
A small museum explains the history of the mission and its construction. Native Americans sell fry bread, jewelry and crafts in the parking lot.
From I-19, take exit 92.