San Xavier del Bac Mission, Tucson

4.5 out of 5 stars 4.5 Stars - 30 Reviews

1950 W San Xavier Rd, Tucson 85746 520-294-2624

Been here? Rate It!

hide
  • San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona Aug 2010
    San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona Aug...
    by jumpingnorman
  • daughter at San Xavier del Bac,Tucson,Arizona 2010
    daughter at San Xavier del...
    by jumpingnorman
  • San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona Aug 2010
    San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona Aug...
    by jumpingnorman
  • starship's Profile Photo

    ~ San Xavier del Bac Mission ~

    by starship Updated Apr 23, 2008

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    San Xavier del Bac Mission ~ Tucson

    Ever since visiting southern California and visiting San Juan Capistrano & San Juan Bautista, I have been interested in missions. In doing research for our trip to Tucson, I found information about San Xavier del Bac Mission and had planned to visit it right after visiting Colossal Cave Mountain Park, but forgot to bring our map and of course, the "driver" didn't want to stop and ask for directions! I didn't want to waste the information I had collected about the Mission prior to our trip, so I am adding this tip to make use of it.

    The San Xavier del Bac Mission is quite different from the other two that I have visited in that it is a much larger, and grandiose church even though it is considered "Mission architecture." It combines several architectural styles including "Mexican Renaissance". The present church was built from 1783 - 1797, replacing the original church which was slightly south. The Mission was built in the settlement of the "Tohono O'odham" people which are related to the Pima tribe and the original "Hohokam" tribes people. The Mission's name was chosen by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino to honor his patron saint, St. Xavier, and for its location called "Bac", which means "place where the water appears" in the O'odham language--the Santa Cruz River is nearby. The story of who the architect was and who the artisans were that built this architecturally stunning church is still somewhat of a mystery today!!

    The Mission is distinguished by its large, bright white dome and almost symmetrical towers (one is incomplete) rising from the desert floor. Pictures reveal the interior, vaulted ceilings adorned with paintings which are original and ornate plaster work. The altar appears to be a splendid combination of paintings and gilt. The church is currently undergoing restoration, but is still open for services and visitors. In fact, it is a fully working parish church and part of the diocese of Tucson, serving mainly the Tohono O'odham, but open to all. It is served by the Franciscan order.

    The Mission church is open EVERY day from 8:00 to 5:00. Admission and parking is free, but donations are greatly appreciated. There is a continuously available video tape for more information about the Mission. A gift shop is also located there.

    San Xavier del Bac Mission church has a limited number of seats--if you plan to attend Mass, please check their website for correct times and try to arrange your tour outside of Mass times.

    Related to:
    • Religious Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • lamentforicarus's Profile Photo

    San Xavier Mission

    by lamentforicarus Updated May 25, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The San Xavier del Bac Mission, often referred to as the "White Dove of the Desert," is located near the Santa Cruz River nine miles south of Tucson. In fact, “Bac” means “a place where water appears.” A Jesuit Missionary named Father Kino visited the site in 1692, and would commence construction of the mission seven years later. In 1767 the Jesuits were driven off the land, and the Franciscans assumed power. The site became the headquarters for Francisco Garces, and after his death, Father Bautista Velderian and Juan Bautista Llorenz undertook the task of completing the unfinished church. The Mission, which was finally completed in 1797, is considered to be one of the greatest examples of mission architecture in the United States. It’s exquisite interior is a collaboration of art by fine-trained European artists and the native people, and reflects Tucson’s multicultural heritage.

    Try to find the cat and the mouse on the entrance facade. It is said that when the cat catches the mouse, the end of the world will be at hand.

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • KimberlyAnn's Profile Photo

    San Xavier del Bac Mission

    by KimberlyAnn Written Feb 23, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    San Xavier Del Back Mission

    San Xavier Del Back Mission is sometimes called “White Dove of the Desert.” This church was completed in 1797, but remains an active Franciscan mission today for the Tohono O’odham Indians. This beautiful, mostly white structure is considered one of the finest examples of Spanish Colonial Architecture in the United State, and is one of the oldest and most well preserved mission in the southwest. The inside is painted elaborately and has many large statues of angels, saints, and Mary. A self-guided tour is available daily 9:30 – 5:30 except Sunday. Donations are appreciated.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • Redlats's Profile Photo

    The White Dove of the Desert

    by Redlats Updated Jun 27, 2005

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    San Xavier de Bac Mission

    This church was built as a mission by Franciscan monks in the 1700's and is still in use today on the Tohono O'odham native reservation. I guess the monks decided to build a church which would impress everybody, and it still does. A non-profit group has undertaken to restore and rebuild the mission, and by 2004 the insides are complete, and work is taking place on the left tower (you can see the scaffolding in my picture). The saguaros in front of the church are quite beat up. Maybe it's time to replace them too.

    Parking and entrance is free, although of course donations are accepted.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture
    • Religious Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • lamentforicarus's Profile Photo

    Around the Mission

    by lamentforicarus Written Jan 18, 2005

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    An exploration of San Xavier's surroundings gives visitors a more complete picture of the Mission. In front, a number of wood stalls have been erected, and there is a hive of activity around Native American vendors selling everything from handmade wares and jewelry to fry bread topped in sugar or honey. To the left of the Mission is a tranquil and interesting cemetery, which can provide a quite respite from San Xavier's crowded hall. For wonderful views and a picture-perfect glimpse of San Xavier, hike up the hill topped by a white cross to the right of the Mission. In the late afternoon, the setting sun casts a beautiful orange glow over the Mission.

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo

    San Xavier del Bac Mission

    by Yaqui Written Oct 10, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    3 more images

    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.

    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Family Travel
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Basaic's Profile Photo

    White Dove of the Desert

    by Basaic Written Aug 26, 2008

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    San Xavier del Bac
    4 more images

    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. There are a number of stands leading to the mission where you can stop and buy some Native American food. For more information, see my San Xavier Page.

    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Historical Travel
    • Religious Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Redlats's Profile Photo

    The inside of San Xavier Mission

    by Redlats Updated Apr 25, 2004

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    interior of San Xavier Mission

    The inside of the church has recently been refinished. It is all carved and painted. There are two statues of Saint Frances, whom people pray to. You can see those statues by checking the mission's website.

    I did not bring a flash or fast film, so I was limited to what I pictures I could take inside the church. A small shaft of light was streaming through a ceiling window, and right on one of the statues (not Saint Frances).

    Besides the church proper, there is a museum and gift shop (open 8am-5pm)

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Religious Travel
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

  • Redlats's Profile Photo

    San Xavier is still a working mission

    by Redlats Updated Apr 25, 2004

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The courtyard of San Xavier Mission

    We walked around to the rear of the complex. It is a lot quieter there, and you see that there is a working school, and a enclosed monestary for the monks. I would imagine they don't think much of all the tourists.

    We also hiked up the nearby hill located right of the church. There is a path around the hill, and you will find a 'prayer fence', or at least a wrought iron fence where people have left candles, ribbons, photos etc.

    After the mission, the back area and the hill, we toured the less religious part of the mission. By the parking lot are stands where you can buy fried bread - we had ours with honey. A little further away are shops with local items to purchase and a more complete lunch spot.

    Related to:
    • Religious Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • zrim's Profile Photo

    San Xavier Mission

    by zrim Written Mar 29, 2003

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    San Xavier Mission

    Dates from about 1780. The San Xavier Mission is both a historical relic and a functioning church. The brilliant white of the mission is pleasing to the eye from the exterior. Inside there are ornate paintings with a definite southwest flair. Meanwhile the gaudy alterpiece would be at home in any rococo church or chapel in Europe.

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • zrim's Profile Photo

    San Xavier Mission Courtyard

    by zrim Written Mar 30, 2003

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    mission courtyard

    In contrast to the ostentatious interior of the mission church, the courtyard is restful and quaint. Lots of flowers and many birds chirping happily in the shade trees.

    There is also a small museum and gift shop on the premises that are worth a look.

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • zrim's Profile Photo

    Try the Fry Bread at the Mission

    by zrim Written Mar 30, 2003

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    frybread stand

    After touring the mission, why not try something different. There are a couple different places that cook up fresh frybread while you wait. The frybread is available as a stand alone item or with honey, cheese, beans, red chile or green chile. A native american delicacy.

    Related to:
    • Food and Dining

    Was this review helpful?

  • jumpingnorman's Profile Photo

    Amazing late 1600's church in desert!

    by jumpingnorman Updated Aug 21, 2010

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    daughter at San Xavier del Bac,Tucson,Arizona 2010
    4 more images

    We were staying a weekend in Tucson, and on waking up, I saw on our hotel travel guide a picture of the San Xavier del Bac Church – it looked wonderful and it was a Sunday, so I checked and it we could make it to Sunday Mass!

    So off we went to this church which was just about 8 miles from where we were, and we just went on Interstate 19 (going south from Downtown Tucson), and there it was – a magnificent white church looking out of place in the desert with a backdrop of the Tucson mountains. Awesome- is is also called the White Dove of the desert and aptly so (looked like a white dove indeed) ---- and it is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona.

    It was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797. Recently though, due to the economic recession of 2010, funding has been cut in preserving this church (from what I hear from our secretary). Our Latina secretary also said that there is a "rat" painting on the ceiling (which I did not remember) which according to folklore will signify the end of the world if it goes to the other side (?).

    Once there, we saw tents where people were selling tacos and other stuff – we did buy some to support the local industry after mass. Parking was very easy even on that Sunday.

    The church is a magnificent structure and we enjoyed taking jumping pics in fron of it, of course, haha…and then we went inside and we were awed by the murals – very old murals and statues. It has also been dubbed as the Sistine chapel of North America.

    The mass was mostly in English, with some Hispanic songs. Picture taking is allowed before the mass only. There is also a little museum and also a small chapel to offer candle favors.

    There is a hill which you could climb beside the church but when we visited, it was the peak of summer so we did not - maybe next time we will go up...

    Truly a great find in Tucson :) – written August 2010

    Related to:
    • Religious Travel
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • Martinewezel's Profile Photo

    The Mission at Easter: wonderful!

    by Martinewezel Written Jul 3, 2009

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The Mission is located on Indian territory. The church is visible from the motorway, and once off the motorway, tourists have to follow the markers to the church. There are "no trespassing" notices for the other roads.

    We didn't know what to expect when going to the Mission on Easter day.
    But, there was a cheery ambiance and the church was overcrowded. Just as lots of other people, we had to wait outside. We heard plainsong coming out of the church, and at the end of the mass, there was an Indian choir singing and making music. It was really an experience.
    The inside of the church is small, but very beautiful. It has been restored with a lot of taste. The wooden seats are unusual and the altar is splendid.

    There is a also a little Mary chapel next to the church, in a cacti garden. All of them were blossoming. What an enchanting place!

    On the square, there were lots of Indian BBQ stalls, and there is also an Indian market where one can buy handcraft and Indian art.

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Religious Travel
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • dila's Profile Photo

    mission San Xavier del Bac

    by dila Written Aug 3, 2004

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    this was the most beautyful mission i have seen.
    a lot they have renovated. it is the oldest one i think.
    also named as the white dove of the desert.
    hours 6am - 7pm.
    i think pima indians helped with build this mission

    Related to:
    • Religious Travel
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

Instant Answers: Tucson

Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers

94 travelers online now

Comments

Hotels Near San Xavier del Bac Mission
4.0 out of 5 stars
85 Opinions
2.9 miles away
Show Prices
4.0 out of 5 stars
195 Opinions
4.4 miles away
Show Prices
4.5 out of 5 stars
216 Opinions
4.5 miles away
Show Prices

View all Tucson hotels