I love exploring my own city. Ever since I started trying to get out my my usual box of the same bars, the same restaurants, and the same activities, I started to love Tucson so much more. Last week, Jenny from Her Styled Story and I went to Mission San Xavier for our photoshoot to expand a bit out of our usual locations.
We went right at sunrise and I was simply awestruck at how this church looked with the sun rising beside it. For those of you wondering, no, I did not wear this outfit inside the church. The church wasn’t even open yet by the time we got there.
This church exudes everything I think of when I think of beauty in the desert. It’s a National Historic Landmark, founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and lasted until in 1797. This building is actially the oldest intact European structure in Arizona and the church interior is filled with original statues and mural paintings. It feels just like it did in the 18th Century.
I love that the church retains its original purpose of serving to the religious needs of its community so it does not rent out the space to outsiders for events.
The church was originally founded when Southern Arizona was still a part of New Spain, which explains the heavy Spanish influence in the architecture. When Mexico gained its independence in 1821, Mission San Xavier actually became part of Mexico for a time. With the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, the Mission joined the United States.
Constructed of low-fire clay brick, stone and lime mortar, the entire structure is roofed with masonry vaults, making it unique among Spanish Colonial buildings within US borders.
Little is known about the people who decorated the interior. The sculpture was created in guild workshops and carried by donkey through the Pimeria Alta to its destination at the Mission. Craftsmen then created gessoed clothing once the sculpture was in place.
Unfortunately, an earthquake in 1887 knocked down the mortuary wall and damaged the church. Extensive repairs began in 1905 and, when a lightning strike hit the West Tower lantern, another round of restoration began after 1939.
The Mission is 9 miles south of Downtown Tucson just off of Interstate 19. Take exit 92 (San Xavier Road) and follow signs to the Mission. It takes about 20 minutes to drive there from the University of Arizona campus.
There is no admission charge to visit Mission San Xavier.
Visit the church:
Public Hours: 7:00 am – 5:00 PM daily
Office Hours: 8:30 am – 4:30 PM M – F
Reconciliation: Every Saturday 4:00 – 5:00 PM
Saturday Vigil: 5:30 PM
Sunday: 8:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 12:30 PM
(Summer schedule: the Sunday masses will be 1 hour earlier June 1-October 1)
Daily: Monday – Friday: 6:30 AM
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