The San Xavier Mission is a National Historic Landmark founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. In 1783, Franciscan missionary Fr. Juan Bautista Velderrain began construction on the present structure using money borrowed from a Sonoran rancher. He hired architect, Ignacio Gaona, and a large workforce from the O’odham community to build the present church. It is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona. The church’s interior is filled with exquisite original statuary and mural paintings, yet little is known about who decorated the interior. The artwork may have been commissioned by Fr. Velderrain’s successor and most likely created by artists from Queretero in New Spain (now Mexico). Visitors feel like they have stepped back in time as they enter the authentic 18th Century church. Many people consider the church to be the finest example of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States.
An earthquake in 1887 knocked down the mortuary wall and damaged parts of the church. Extensive repairs began in 1905, under the direction of Bishop Henry Granjon. The next round of restoration began when a lightning strike hit the West Tower lantern in 1939. In 1989 leaking walls force an emergency restoration. Currently, restoration continues as funds are available.
The San Xavier Mission is 9 miles south of downtown Tucson, Arizona just off of Interstate 19. Take exit 92 (San Xavier Road) and follow signs to the Mission. Approximately 200,000 visitors come every year from all over the world. There is no admission charge to visit.
For more information, visit: sanxaviermission.org