Scenic USA - Arizona

The White Dove of the Desert

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San Xavier del Bac Mission Church - Tucson, Arizona

Photo by Peggy Price
Peggy Price Photography

     Surrounded with mountain ranges in all directions, Arizona's second largest city is spread out over a huge valley ... a perfect site to enjoy southern Arizona. This desert region, populated with Arizona's most famous cactus, the giant saguaro, is also well known for its luxurious golf courses, vacation resorts, and its Old West flavor. Included in Tucson's multi-cultural heritage are its Spanish roots. A chain of missions established during the late 17th century includes the Spanish mission San Xavier del Bac.
     Founded in 1692 among the Tohono O'odham Tribe, construction of the present day church began in 1783, taking 14 years to complete. One of the oldest missions in Arizona, the church continues to serve its parishioners today. Its magnificent interior, recently restored, is filled with original statuary, mural paintings and finished with exquisite details.
     The exterior, designed by architect Ignacio Gaona, is built of soft clay brick, stone and lime mortar. A most unique design among the area's Spanish buildings, the White Dove continues to exhibit its traditional white glow with a new coat of lime plaster. Beginning exterior preservation work began in 1989, and the west tower was completed in time for Christmas Day Mass in 2008. The scaffolding was removed for a short period of time, allowing for this extraordinary view of the San Xavier del Bac Mission Church. The east tower refurbishment continues, removing an improper coating of cement, replacing crumbling brick and recoating with a traditional lime plaster. Considering the church is over 200 years old and its construction of a soft building material, San Xavier del Bac remains in remarkable condition.

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