The more things that we do in Tucson, the more I realize how few places we have visited. You probably know how it goes, you have some amazing places within ten to twenty miles of where you live and you never visit them. Meanwhile, some people travel thousands of miles to see them. Last year we visited a number of Indian ruins and cliff dwellings in central Arizona. This last Saturday Debs and I decided we had to visit the Mission of San Xavier del Bac while we are still here in Tucson.
I can't believe we almost missed the opportunity to see it, especially since it's closely related to many of my own studies, including some colonial courses that I have taken.
Father Eusebio Kino founded the mission in 1692, and the current cathedral was built between 1783 and 1797. It is the oldest edifice in Arizona of European influence. The east tower was left unfinished because of the lack of funds. Over the years the mission has been visited by the likes of the Mormon Battalion, and much later, Ansel Adams.
Despite its historical significane, this amazing edifice in the middle of the desert continues to face a shortage of funding for restoration projects; nonetheless, a lot has been accomplished in preserving it in the last 25 years.
The iconography on the facade of the cathedral and all throughout rivals that of most European cathedrals, even if some of the artwork and materials used do not quite match the skill and resources available in the Old World.
The mortuary chapel filled with candles and numerous figurines of saints lies to the west of the cathedral inside a small enclosure that features a wide variety of cacti.
Here Gabs and Bells stand by one of the doors on the west side of the cathedral.
The west tower has been restored and whitewashed and stands in vivid contrast with its surroundings. It should come as no surprise to learn that the mission is also known as the White Dove of the Desert.
A docent took us on a free guided tour, which was fabulous by the way! Our guide pointed out the iconography throughout our visit as well as the mozarabe influence in the construction of the mission. I could have stayed for hours, but with temperatures reaching 105°F and no air conditioning in any of the buildings, we had to cut our visit short before Sammy Jay got too hot. I've already planned another visit to the mission before we leave Tucson in a few weeks!