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San Xavier del Bac Mission was founded in 1692 by Father Eusebio Kino, and is often times called the "white dove of the desert." The San Xavier del Bac Mission is still in use. It is open daily and welcomes visitors to attend Mass. The only time you cannot visit the San Xavier del Bac Mission is for weddings and special religious ceremonies. The Mission serves the Tohono O’odham Nation. Free docent tours Monday - Saturday mornings (when church is not in use).


  • San Xavier del Bac Mission as it appears today
  • Looking at the pulpit inside San Xavier del Bac Mission
  • Wooden statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Roman Catholic Native American saint.
  • Map (tap to enlarge)

A National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797. The oldest intact European structure in Arizona, the church's interior is filled with marvelous original statuary and mural paintings. It is a place where visitors can truly step back in time and enter an authentic 18th Century space. The church retains its original purpose of ministering to the religious needs of its parishioners.

Father Eusebio Kino, was a Jesuit explorer working to spread Christianity in the area known as New Spain. The mission is located on the San Xavier Reservation, which is part of the Tohono O'odham Nation. In colonial times, missions like this one were an important part of Spainish Colonization.  

The current church dates from the late 1700s, when Southern Arizona was part of New Spain. In 1783, Franciscan missionary Fr. Juan Bautista Velderrain was able to begin construction on the present structure using money borrowed from a Sonoran rancher. He hired an architect, Ignacio Gaona, and a large workforce of O'odham to create the present church.

Following Mexican independence in 1821, San Xavier became part of Mexico. *The last resident Franciscan of the 19th Century departed in 1837. With the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, the Mission joined the United States. In 1859 San Xavier became part of the Diocese of Santa Fe. In 1866 Tucson became an incipient diocese and regular services were held at the Mission once again. Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet opened a school at the Mission in 1872. Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity now teach at the school and reside in the convent. 

Museum
There is a museum at the Mission that explains more about its history. The best way to begin your experience is with the 20-minute video which talks about the history of the Mission and its restoration. Then walk through the museum and look at the artifacts which will give you a sense of the history and the way people lived here at the Mission. The museum is free and open to the public, however there are donation boxes which help provide for the Mission's upkeep.


The church retains its original purpose of ministering to the religious needs of its parishioners. Please refer to the Mission's wesite Homepage for the "Statement on Mission Usage."

*The Franciscans returned to the Mission in 1913. 


1. "Mission San Xavier del Bac," Official Website Homepage, includes Hours and Mass Schedule, accessed November 10, 2016.
http://www.sanxaviermission.org/
2. "Mission Tours," Patronato San Xavier website, accessed November 10, 2016.
http://www.patronatosanxavier.org/visit/
3. "Upcoming Events," Patronato San Xavier website, accessed November 10, 2016.
http://www.patronatosanxavier.org/events/
4. "Tohono O'odham at San Xavier del Bac," Mission website, accessed November 10, 2016.
http://www.sanxaviermission.org/Tohono.html
5. "San Xavier del Bac Mission," National Park Service website, accessed November 10, 2016.
http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/American_Latino_Heritage/San_Xavier_del_Bac_Mission.html
6. "National Register of Historic Places- Registration Form," San Xavier del Bac Mission, NPS website, accessed November 10, 2016.
http://npgallery.nps.gov/pdfhost/docs/NRHP/Text/66000191.pdf
7. "Facebook page," Mission San Xavier del Bac, accessed November 10, 2016.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mission-San-Xavier-del-Bac/132911833412231?ref=ts&fref=ts
8. Helga Teiwes, "MISSION SAN XAVIER del BAC: A photographic essay on the Desert People and their church," University of Arizona Press, 1973, online, accessed November 10, 2016.
http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/onlinebks/MISSION/TITLMISS.HTM
9. "Wikipedia entry," Mission San Xavier del Bac, accessed November 10, 2016.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission_San_Xavier_del_Bac
10. "Mission San Xavier del Bac," video, YouTube, 1:33 mins., 2012, accessed November 10, 2016.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1VNyU9wDd0