Mission San Xavier del Bac

Mission San Xavier del Bac

We rounded a corner and, at first, the gleaming white building looked to us like the Taj Mahal. An instant later we recognized the Moorish-inspired structure looming over a sea of green as Mission San Xavier del Bac.

A short drive from downtown Tucson, Arizona, San Xavier stands as one of the most impressive missions we’ve visited in our tour of the Southwest. Its seemingly spotless white façade is a distinct contrast to the more ancient look of the San Antonio Missions. And its ornate architecture sets it apart from the simpler structures we found on El Paso’s Mission Trail.

Even as we marveled at San Xavier’s exterior, it didn’t prepare us for what awaited us inside. Beyond the massive and elegantly carved mesquite-wood doors, lies a richly decorated sanctuary of wood and gold and vibrant color. Statues and carvings and frescos, combining elements of Spanish and Native American heritage, vie for your attention. Marbling and theatrical curtain displays add a richness and sense of drama. But despite all the busyness of its Baroque decoration, San Xavier also achieves the calming sense of balance appropriate for a functioning house of worship.

Mission San Xavier del Bac Interior

San Xavier also operates a small free museum with several artifacts on display and a 20 minute video describing the Mission’s history. The museum is open daily from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm and the Mission Church is open 7:00 am – 5:00 pm, but check their website for a current schedule.

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16 Comments on “Mission San Xavier del Bac”

  1. hobojimmy July 2, 2012 at 7:43 am #

    I love reading about your travels when I can, very interesting…how I wish I could.

    Keep up with writings and remember, you’ll always have me looking for you.
    Good luck.


  2. Marilyn July 2, 2012 at 9:25 am #

    I love this mission! We visited numerous times on our way to Nogales, Mexico when we lived in Phoenix. Memories of the beauty and the “must have” Indian Fry bread came on me as I read this post. Beautiful pictures!


    • Brian July 2, 2012 at 9:34 am #

      Ah, fry bread. I thought about doing a post on it. We called it “fried dough” when growing up. In Belize they call them “fry jacks.” I wonder if fried dough and powdered sugar are some kind of universal cultural constant? Maybe I need to do some more traveling to find out. Darn.


      • Marilyn July 2, 2012 at 9:53 am #

        You may be right about the cultural constant. Beaver tails in Quebec City are so similar – only difference is you have the choice of Nutella as a topping!


  3. Grant July 2, 2012 at 11:05 am #



  4. Pam Scott July 2, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    Beautiful pictures. Thank you for shedding light on a little known gem just south of Tucson. Everytime I visited, I was reminded of how much faith this culture had to put all of their riches into their place of worship.


  5. earthriderjudyberman July 2, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

    Stunning photos. Gorgeous white mission. Ornate decoratings. Wonderful.
    Re: “fried dough” – I think that’s called pizza fritte in Italian. Sugar dusted. Wonderful.


  6. Kae Lani | A Travel Broad July 2, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    Wow! I had no idea something some incredible was in Tucson! At first glimpse, I thought the photograph was of a Spanish Cathedral because it was so intricate! I am very surprised and happy that this architectural beauty can be found in the states!


  7. tjlovelady July 2, 2012 at 7:55 pm #

    Really nice photo!


  8. P. C. Zick July 3, 2012 at 7:29 am #

    Visiting churches during travels is always the best. They’re free and provide lots of history and insight into the area. Enjoyed reading about this one!


  9. hodamaymay July 3, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    I have been following your blog for a while and really enjoy reading it. That’s why I’d like to nominate you for the Versatile Blogger Award. For the rules of accepting the award, check out my blog post:http://hodamaymay.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/i-am-nominated-for-versitile-blogger-award/ or http://versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com/. Congrats!


    • Brian July 4, 2012 at 9:13 am #

      We’re honored and glad you like our blog.


  10. Naomi (Write About Me.com.au) July 4, 2012 at 7:06 am #

    Amazing adventures on this blog, tempted to pack my suitcase and embark on the traveler’s path!


  11. bluebutterfliesandme July 5, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

    Nice shares, thank you.


  12. Touch2Touch July 10, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    Another view of the White Dove of the Desert, in use:

    Enjoying your blog!


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