Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mission San Xavier del Bac

We took advantage of one of Tucson's 300 sunny days this year to drive south a few miles to visit Mission San Xavier del Bac. This shining white mission shimmers in the desert sun. It's striking appearance against the barren sandy soil and clear blue sky has earned this national historic landmark the nickname "White Dove of the Desert". The mission is one of 24 missions established by Jesuit missionary Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino in the late 1600's. His vision for the church was simple: Impress the Indians. Our guess is that mission was accomplished!

Completed in 1797, the mission is in a constant state of restoration. Standing in the blazing Arizona sun for 213 years has definitely taken its toll. The west tower has been restored to its original splendor.

The east tower, which was never completed in the original construction, has yet to be restored.

Very little is known about the construction of this magnificent church. The names of the original architects and artisans have been lost in history.

Also known as "The Sistine Chapel of the New World", the interior of the church is filled with painted murals, carvings and sculptures. The mission is an active Catholic church that serves the Tohono O'odham Indian tribe.

The statues, carvings and paintings surrounding this side altar are beautiful. The interior of the church was restored in the 1980's and '90s by a team of conservators from around the world.

The mission serves as a shrine to St. Francis Xavier and is a place where many Catholics come to make requests to God. Each of the hundreds of lighted candles here represent a person's vow, intention or prayer.

Other visitors leave "milagros", small cast-metal ornaments, as offerings for their devotions. This display of offerings includes several pieces of small jewelry, a holy card and a handwritten note. The note, scribbled in Spanish, is a prayer from Thomas for help to find a good job.

The arch is a predominant architectural element throughout the mission.

There are arches everywhere.

This arch opens to Grotto Hill on the east side of the mission.

A cactus garden sits outside a small chapel on the mission grounds. Lucky for us, the desert is in bloom this time of year!

If there's an Easter Lily cactus, this is it!

It's a first for us to see so much color in the desert.

The mission sits on Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation. Just steps away you can find local vendors with native crafts and foods for sale. Without having a clue what it was, we decided to try the Indian frybread.

Take a tortilla and deep fry it. Fill it with, in our case, beans and cheese and fold it up. That's frybread! And, guess what? It's mighty tasty!

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