Mission San Xavier del Bac one of the West’s earliest remaining buildings still in use

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MISSION SAN XAVIER
DEL BAC
If you are a history buff, you know that in the
Western states, unlike along the eastern seaboard or New England, you don’t see
many historic sites chronicling European exploration with dates in the early 1500s,  1600s, and early 1700s when the Europeans were settling what would eventually become the United States of America. 
Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, a Jesuit Priest from Northern Italy, was one of the first missionaries to visit the wes. He visited Native Americans in the O’odham community of Wak (Bac),
south of what is now Tucson, Arizona  as long ago
as 1692. 
Though he fruitlessly attempted to build a rustic church as early as
1700, it was Father Alonso Espinosa who actually began building the first church of any
substance in 1756. Father Francisco Garces arrived in 1768 and became its first
minister.
The current structure, though added to and rebuilt over the
years, was begun during the American Revolution clear over on the East Coast, in 1776 and wasn’t completed until 1797. It is an outstanding
example of Spanish baroque architecture, with elegant arches, domes, and twin bell
towers (one left unfinished). Inside resides a historically priceless
collection of Mexican baroque art, frescoes, and wooden carvings. An ongoing process of restoration begun in the early 1990s
is restoring the original luster to the 200-plus year-old art. 
Mission San Xavier del Bac’s dazzling
white walls have given it the name “The White Dove of the Desert,” and
it still serves the Tohono O’odham today with daily masses.
Photography is permitted
when services are not in progress. Drive nine miles south of Tucson on I-19 and
take exit 92.  Turn west for one mile.
The church is open daily 8AM to 6PM. Admission is free and donations are accepted.
 
On the grounds outside the church the O’odham operate a
makeshift market of native jewelry, pottery,
arts and crafts, and several food booths featuring Indian fry bread. 
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