• Andrea LaRayne Etzel

Mission San Xavier del Bac | Tucson, AZ


The morning I went to visit the mission a thick fog rolled through Tucson, drowning out the sun it cast a somber tone. By the time my GPS said I had arrived I could just make out the striking white twin towers. Two beacons that have stood the test of time. It is because of the white facade the mission received its nickname "White Dove of the Desert." Being that it was a cold, foggy Monday morning in January it might not be surprising that there were not many cars in the lot.

First walking into the church was a humbling experience. The care and craftsmanship of the sanctuary simply left me in awe. Built in the Baroque architecture style, the detailed artwork and statuary are dramatic and hard to take in all at once. I think you could visit tens, maybe even hundreds, of times and discover a new element each time.

Well worn wooden pews cut down the center of the church and call visitors to take a moment for prayer and reflection. Standing beneath paintings depicting biblical scenes and religious figures, or the alters surrounded by ornately carved saints - all accented with gilded gold and warm rich colors - you'll feel as though you've been transported to a small village church in Spain or Mexico. Which you are, when first built the mission was in the New Spain territory and then in 1821 following Mexican Independence it became part of Mexico. Today, it resides on the Tohono O'odham Nation's San Xavier Reservation in Arizona.

Along with the church, the site also has a courtyard, a cacti garden that showcases the stations of the cross and leads to a chapel filled with lit perpetual candles, there is also a school and nearby on a hill you can take a short hike to a grotto.

Due to limited time, I was only able to experience the church for a short while. I hope to be able to visit again - attend a mass to fully taken in its spiritual sacredness.


Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, a Jesuit missionary and early explorer, began his missionary work in North America when he was assigned to the New Spain territory in 1681. After attending expeditions through California, Father Kino's missionary work lead him to Cucurpe and the Pimería Alta where he established his first mission. Until his death in 1711, Father Kino would build 24 missions and spent his life defending the Native tribes against Spanish colonists and soldiers. In 1692, he founded the Mission San Xavier del Bac.

The church that stands today was constructed in the late 1700s by Franciscan missionaries on the tribal land of the Tohono O’odham. Over the last 300 years the church has been a part of four different nations, and withstood an earthquake, a lightening strike and in 1964 was narrowly missed by a tornado.



The Mission is 9 miles southwest downtown Tucson, Arizona just off of Interstate 19. Take exit 92 (San Xavier Road).


Chapel hours are from 7am - 5pm daily. The church still hold Mass regularly, please visit their website for hours.


There is no admission, but they do accept donations.


  • Visitor parking is available for free onsite, watch for direction signs.

  • Non-commercial photography is allowed.

  • Dress for the weather, there is no heat or air conditioning in the church.

  • For preservation purposes only smokeless candles are allowed in the church, they can be purchased gift shop.

  • Website: Mission San Xavier del Bac

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