The Spirit of Arizona Blog Series:       San Xavier Mission

The majestic "White Dove of the Desert" rises like a vision from the desert floor seemingly out of place and yet, oddly at home with its sparse surroundings.  The San Xavier Mission, which has been compared to the Vatican's Sistine Chapel, is known as one of the finest examples of Spanish colonial architecture. 

Filled with the glory of the 18th Century it is bursting with color, and you can't help but feel the passion of its creators from the moment you step inside this Southern Arizona treasure.

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.   It is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona and is filled with marvelous original statuary and mural paintings. 

Stories about the mission have become part of the Southern Arizona folklore and are passed on to visitors from around the world.  Most remarkable perhaps is that it is the site of one recorded "miraculous" event involving the death of a Franciscan, Father Ignacio, who arrived at the mission in June 1802. 

Father Ignacio wrote of the power of nature, the great storms that rumbled across the desert.  "What noises. What thunder. What wind.  It appears that these elements wish lift us and the house up to the stars."  Sadly he was struck with a fever 3 years after his arrival and was dead within a few weeks time.  For hours after his death, his body continued sweating and omitting, it was said, a sweet odor.  Many people came from Tucson to witness the "miracle". 

While modern speculation suggests otherwise, this miracle resides in the hearts of the believers and is one of the countless reasons so many are drawn to this special place.  An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 people visit the church yearly. What many tourists may not realize is that this is an active Catholic church, a parish church of the Tohono O'odham. 

In the 1990s an extensive and painstaking preservation project was launched to make this desert jewel shine again. 

The bright, colorful interiors are once again a joy to behold.  One of the best videos I could find on You Tube that shows the intricate and striking beauty of this Arizona treasure is this one created by Mr Camera Guy 5 in May of 2010.

         JUDI MONDAY, CRS         

520-241-7780

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