Mission San Xavier Del Bac – Tucson, Arizona - Atlas Obscura

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Mission San Xavier Del Bac

This church on a Tohono O'Odham reservation has stood since 1797. 


Located in Tucson, on the Tohono O’odham San Xavier Indian Reservation, is this small, but stunning white mission church. It was completed in 1797 and is still an active place of worship today.

Inside, the church is decorated with a combination of Spanish and Native American motifs. The ornate altar, painted walls, and wooden benches are vibrant and beautiful. There is a small outer building containing an altar that is covered with religious and personal items left by the faithful who have come to pray.

Mission San Xavier del Bac was established in 1692 by Jesuit Eusebio Francisco Kino. The mission’s first church was built in 1700 about two miles from the current site. After it was demolished in 1770, the church that stands today was built between 1783 and 1797. Much of the labor was completed by the Tohono Oʼodham, an Indigenous people who have lived in the Sonoran Desert for hundreds of years. Today, many of the O’odham have combined traditional cultural practices and beliefs with elements of Catholicism.

Know Before You Go

Free tours are offered Monday-Saturday starting at 9:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. as long as there is no church service. You can also visit the gift shop and mausoleum. Check the website and plan your trip accordingly before going.  If you're lucky, you'll also be able to buy traditional Indian fry bread, with or without various fillings, from vendors near the parking area (most often available on weekends).

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