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Mission San Xavier Del Bac in Arizona Is the White Dove of the Desert

Suny Errot



White doves are usually found in wooded areas, man-made structures like buildings, or in joyous occasions such as weddings. Would you believe that it also exists in the desert? If you think it’s not possible, then here’s where the Mission San Xavier del Bac in Arizona comes in!

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Source: Mission San Xavier del Bac | Arizona Daily Star/Ron Medvescek

Mission San Xavier del Bac is a historic Spanish Catholic mission found about 10 miles south of downtown Tucson, Arizona, and on the Tohono O’odham Nation San Xavier Indian Reservation. Aside from being a National Historic Landmark, it is also generally recognized as the oldest “intact” church in the state.

Father Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit explorer, was committed to his mission of spreading Christianity in New Spain. Thus, he founded the Mission San Xavier del Bac in 1700. At the time, the mission served as an outpost of Christianity for the conversion of indigenous peoples. Now, the Native community already makes up most of the permanent congregation. The Franciscans finally completed this white stucco church in 1797.

Many people travel to see Mission San Xavier del Bac and admire its architecture and rich history. It doesn’t come as a surprise because it is one of the most beautiful and inspirational areas of the southwest. Today, many people come to visit this popular pilgrimage site to partake in conversion and education programs.

The intriguing east tower

East Tower Mission San Xavier del Bac

Source: East Tower of Mission San Xavier del Bac | Arizona Daily Star/A.E. Araiza

Did you notice that this church seems unfinished? That’s probably because it is! You can see that the east tower has some of its murals traced and penciled but never painted on the interior walls. Here are some of the crazy rumors and stories as to why it’s never completed:

  • The work was halted because someone fell off the tower.
  • There was a cyclone that blew the dome off the east tower and since then, they didn’t bother replacing it.
  • Owners didn’t have to pay tax if a building is unfinished.

There is no documentary evidence for any of these stories.

Why do people refer to it as the “White Dove” of the desert?

Mission San Xavier Del Bac

Source: Exterior of Mission San Xavier Del Bac | Alexia Grant

Look at the white mission found below the blue skies. Doesn’t it look heavenly? The stark contrast between the bright white exterior and soft blue skies against its dark interior is also iconic. So much so that it appears like a white dove in the middle of the desert. If you think about it, it’s on par with a good stargazing activity.

Mission San Xavier del Bac represents Spanish colonial architecture, more particularly Spanish Baroque, with its overall style, colorful frescoes, sculptures, and carving. The dramatic elements such as the theatrical curtain displays, marbling, faux doors, and the overall sense of balance are all at play here.

Mass Schedule

  • Monday to Friday 6:30 am (Juan Diego Chapel)
  • Saturday Vigil 5:30 pm
  • Winter Mass (Sundays of October through May) 8:00 am, 11:00 am, and 12:30 pm
  • Summer Mass (Sundays of June through September) 7:00 am, 10:00 am, and 11:30 am

There are also free docent tours from Monday to Saturday mornings when the church is not in use.

Address: 1950 W San Xavier Rd, Tucson


Don’t you think Mission San Xavier del Bac in Arizona really stands out as a white dove in the desert?