Posts Tagged ‘Father Eusebio Kino’

Not far southwest of downtown Tucson you’ll find Mission San Xavier del Bac, informally known as The White Dove. You can see why from this opening photo showing the main part of the church. Although we’ve lived in Arizona since March of 2020, last Saturday was our first visit to a place my dad used to urge us to go and considering this wasn’t the sort of place I realized he enjoyed, that was a huge endorsement.

We pulled up about half an hour after the church opened and before most other people arrived, my favorite time to visit almost anywhere. 🙂 As we drove down the highway, we could see a group of white buildings from a distance but the true magnificence only became apparent when we arrived on the opposite side of the enormous open area in front of the mission.

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. Using money borrowed from a Sonoran rancher and designed by a Spanish architect, the villagers from Wa:k, part of the Tohono O’odham Nation, helped build the church from sand, lime, clay, rock and wood. They built kilns, dug trenches, and and whatever else needed doing and work continued for 16 years until the money ran out.

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. (From the church website)

You might be forgiven for thinking you’re in a European Spanish or Portuguese church when you see the interior. This view is from the front of the church (at least as far as we could go) looking back towards the entrance.

Eventually building resumed and numerous additions, such as classrooms, rooms for the housing of clergy, defense against attacks, and so forth, were make, creating the beautiful structures we saw last weekend. The enclosed figure in the photo below is San Francisco Xavier, the patron saint of Father Kino and source of the church’s name.

Another thing reminiscent of a European church was the ongoing restoration, which kept us from fully seeing and appreciating the beauty of the sanctuary. But don’t despair! If you click here, you’ll be taken to a 360 degree view of the entire magnificent interior of the church and trust me, it’s well worth the minute or two of your time. It was frustrating not to be able to see the entire area even with the scaffolding and there’s no way of knowing how long the work will take.

But I did get a peek at a bit of the area to the left of the main sanctuary.

The work of repairing and maintaining the church continues along with the costs. Thankfully the emphasis is on using traditional materials and a local apprenticeship program allows opportunities for members of the community to train and learn skills in conservation and related trades. Last year the school had to close due to both low enrollment and lack of staff. There’s still a gift shop and a museum, the latter closed at this time. The Mission is considered one of the most culturally significant at-risk buildings in the world.

All that being true, it’s the feeling of awe that I got when entering the church that was most real. The beauty, love, and time put into glorifying God is apparent and heartfelt. That the native community was deeply involved in the construction and still worships there on Sundays is wonderful. Whatever some might believe about the motivation and methods of the Catholic Church in its ministry to native people (and there’s nothing I could see here that read like subjugation), the glory of God has eclipsed that and shone through. If you are ever in this area, you won’t be sorry if you take time to visit, checking in advance for service times during which the church isn’t open for visiting but certainly is open for worship. Visiting is free but donations or purchases in the gift shop are not only welcome but go towards keeping The White Dove flying for years to come.

Jo might feel at home in this church, so it’s fitting that it’s part of her morning walk this week. Jo, thanks for hosting this enjoyable walk through many parts of the world! It’s always a joy.