This is not on mission property. The shrine was original set up by Bishop Granjon in 1908 dedicated to the Virgin Mary and then was turned into a replica of the famous grotto in Lourdes, France. The trail to the shrine loops around the hill. At the top you will have a beautiful view of the valley.
Jesuit priest came to this valley to convert the Native America's, the Tohono O'odham tribe. Father Eusebius Kino visited in 1692 and laid the foundation of the first mission. Sadly the Jesuits were expelled by 1767. The Franciscans moved in by 1768 and the completion of the mission was accomplished 1797. The missions architecture is of Spanish Renaissance, Moorish, & Aztec design. The front facade is very ornate in a rich red arabesque. The columns are four figures in niches. The first above and to the left with crown & royal robe is the statue of Saint Elizabeth. The figure below with a black robe a Jesuit priest. To the right the upper figure with tambourine is St. Cecilia. The one in the niche below is blackened from candle wax because the traditions is the saint cures their sore eyes. The church front entrance is covered with beautiful scroll work having the coat of arms of the Franciscan monks, which is a cross, with a rope coil above and two arms below, one of which represents that of Christ, and is naked, the other one that of St. Francis de Assisi, and is partially clothed.
Inside is in the shape of the cross. The whole inside is adorned with very ornate frescoes and each has a very significant meaning. It is all a lot to take in. They do ask for people to be very quiet to respect others who might be in prayer. A very lovely church. You have to take the time to explore it to fully appreciate it's history.
Beneath this alter is the casket of Saint Francis. Tradition goes back to Father Ignacio Joseph Ramirez y Arellano who is believed to have had a miraculous state in death that was witnessed by people from all over the Tucson area. Tradition is for anyone to be able to walk up to touch Saint Francis and leave a prayer. Very unique.
The museum is free and open to the public, but they do have donation boxes which helps provide them with upkeep. The museums hours are: 8:30am - 4:30pm daily. It is not a huge museum, but lots of very important artifacts and photographs.
When you see the museum it takes you to the veranda and courtyard. We didn't get to explore it because it was going through renovation. Yet, we were glad we could see what we could such as the beautiful arched veranda with the exposed ceiling of wood beams.
This was used formerly as a mortuary chapel and is now Our Lady of Sorrows Chapel.
This is the ancient burying ground. They moved the grounds more west since they worried about health conditions. Along the walls are fourteen pillars bearing niches for the Stations of the Cross worked in high-relief. The chapel is adorned with a beautiful belfry. Once inside the whole back wall is adorned with candles dedicated to the Virgin Mary. We visited during the heat of the day and with all the candles lite, it was like a furnace in the room. We couldn't stay to enjoy it more.
The mission has a nice museum teaching you about the establishment of the mission, its ongoing activities, and the people from the area. Note that the locals referred to the area as Wa:k, not Bac. The museum is open daily from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. Admission is free but donations are appreciated.
Mission San Xavier del Bac was established by the Jesuit Missionary Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. The present church was built by the Franciscans, between 1783 and 1797. Mission San Xavier del Bac is still a functioning parish church serving the residents of the San Xavier Tohono O'odham Reservation. The mission is open every day of the year from 8 AM to 5 PM. Please be respectful and quiet during masses. Admission is free; but donations are appreciated. Provisions are made for handicapped access. There is a gift shop on site that is open every day of the year except Easter Sunday and Christmas Day, from 8 AM to 5 PM.
Mission San Xavier del Bac was established by the Jesuit Missionary Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. The present church was built by the Franciscans, between 1783 and 1797. Mission San Xavier del Bac is still a functioning parish church serving the residents of the San Xavier Tohono O'odham Reservation. The mission is in a beautiful area with mountains in the distance.
Called the "White Dove of the Desert," San Xavier Del Bac Mission was built in 1783 and is located in the center of a Papago Indian settlement along the banks of the Santa Cruz River, in the very scenic Santa Cruz Valley.
You may notice that in our introductory photo there is a scaffoling covering a portion of the front of the mission. That picture was taken on our most recent visit to San Xavier in December, 2004, when renovations to the exterior were being done. Karen took this photo on another visit about four years earlier.
The mission is listed as a National Historical Landmark and is open daily for self-guided tours. A continuous video tape tells the story of the mission, and there is also a gift shop. This is an active mission and Mass is still held here regularly. Please click the web link below for the latest times.
Daily, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Free, but donations are always appreciated.
Just to the right of the San Xavier Mission is a small rocky outcrop with a trail leading to the top. We saw many pilgrims climbing the hill so we followed to see what was there. About half way up the "mountain" is a wide level trail which completely encircles it, offering splendid views of the Santa Cruz Valley and distant mountains. A grotto leads off of this trail.
At the top of the "mountain" is a wrought iron "prayer fence" and attached to it are many candles, ribbons, photos and hand written notes. Pilgrims bring their prayers to St. Francis here, especially those seeking a cure for a physical ailment either for themselves or for a loved one. It is a touching sight, representing human hopes, fears, sorrows - and reportedly, a few miracles.
For my personal taste I much preferred the simple quite beauty of the San Xavier courtyard over the gaudy over-decorated dark sanctuary.
A gift shop and a small Museum which tells the story of the San Xavier Mission is just off the courtyard.
It is interesting that for such a beautiful church there is no record of the architects, builders, or artists responsible for creating it. Virtually every inch of the interior walls and ceiling is covered with art and sculptures, and it is thought to be the work of at least three different artists. The colors, though faded, are still brilliant and quite striking.
Candles are available for $2.00 each from the gift shop for those who would like to light one and leave it. Due to the reconstruction, you are not permitted to bring your own candle.
Saguaro and ocotillo cacti stand out against a backdrop of the church. The saguaro (larger cactus shown) grow to be quite old. I have heard it say they are at least 75 years old before any "arms" grow out from the side.
Grotto Hill has a place to pray and see the beauty of the area. The road and trail leading to the top is not well maintained and can get pretty rough. Grotto Hill does not belong to the mission.