The oldest and best-preserved mission church in the Southwest, San Xavier del Bac rises out of the stark, flat landscape of the Tohono O’odham Reservation, its white walls dazzling in the desert sun.
t The ornate facade of San Xavier del Bac Mission, decorated with carved figures of saints
Experience Phoenix and Southern Arizona
t Layout of San Xavier del Bac Mission
A mission was first established here by the Jesuit priest Father Eusebio Kino in 1700. The complex seen today was built by O’odham laborers under the direction of Franciscan missionaries and was completed in 1797. Built of adobe brick, the mission is considered to be the finest example of Spanish Colonial archi-tecture in the US. The church also incorporates other styles, including several Baroque flourishes. In the 1990s its interior was extensively renovated, and five retablos (altar-pieces) were restored to their original glory. On entering the church, visitors are struck by the dome’s ceiling with its paintings of religious figures. Vivid pigments of vermilion and blue were used to contrast with the stark white stone background.
San Xavier del Bac Mission is popularly called “the white dove of the desert”.