Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rural Tucson's graceful old mission

Mission San Xavier del Bac

The crisp white adobe stands out magnificently against the blue skies of the desert southwest. Guitars and voices ring out as a priest conducts mass inside the Mission San Xavier del Bac, located 10 miles south of Tucson, Arizona.

The mission was founded in 1692 by Father Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit. Construction on the current church stated in 1783 and ended fourteen years later The church, with its main entrance in wood, seems very large from the outside, but a lot narrower on the inside. The inside has the typical domed ceilings of Catholic cathedrals. The altar and backdrop are made of wood. Pews are a rustic wood.

A museum occupies several rooms to one side. These rooms were once used as sleeping quarters for the priests and nuns who ministered to their parishioners.

Inside the mission church
This section of Arizona was part of New Spain when the current church was built. The priest at the time borrowed money from a Sonoran farmer to pay for its construction. The mission is made of clay, brick and mortar. Cacti and other native vegetation fill a garden area in front.

San Xavier became part of Mexico when it declared its independence from Spain. San Xavier became part of the United States through the 1854 Gadsden Purchase. Nuns with the order of St. Joseph of Carondolet opened a school at the mission in 1872, The school is now operated by the Sisters of Charity.

The mission became a national historic landmark in 1963.

Sunday masses are at 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. Pictures may not be taken inside the church when mass is being held.

Admission to the church is free, though donation boxes abound. The church is located just off Interstate 19, which runs between Tucson and Nogales. The mission is visible from the freeway. Take exit 9 and follow the signs.

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