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You Should See the Beautiful 19th-Century Franciscan Mission If You Want to See Arizona’s Prized Architecture



Architecture is an artform abundant in Arizona. Established in varying times, some are modern and others are historic. No matter the case, architecture encapsulates a part of society’s collective culture and ideas in a single form during a specific time. In Arizona lies a piece of architecture that has stood the test of time. Tumacacori National Historical Park is comprised of Spanish colonial missions that later served as a Franciscan Mission. It was erected during the 19th century, making it a historical landmark.

Tumacacori National Historical Park is a Remarkable Place with Hispanic Roots

Tumacacori National Historical Park az

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Today, the Tumacacori National Historical Park is a popular attraction in Tumacacori, Santa Cruz County, Arizona, as the oldest mission site in the state. If you’re looking to take a trip down memory lane and enjoy the chiseled beauty of the nineteenth-century architecture, then this you’d find this place truly remarkable! But what do we know about the place? Let’s learn more about its history.

Established in 1691, San José de Tumacácori and Los Santos Ángeles de Guevavi are the two oldest missions in Arizona. Together with San Cayetano de Calabazas that was established in 1756, these are the three mission ruins found in the park. Tasked with converting the people of Northern America as part of their mission to evangelize and share the catechism of the Church, Jesuit missionaries established San Jose De Tumacacori.

Tumacacori National Park

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The missionaries inhabited the eastern bank of the Rio De la Santa Cruz in the land of Pima Indians, now known as Arizona. Come 1767, though, the Jesuits were banished and came along the new order of missionaries, the Franciscans.

Tumacacori National Historical Park arizona

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The Franciscans commenced the construction of a new major complex built upon what the Jesuits had left. And as it turns out, the remains of the Jesuit mission and the Franciscan complex are what mostly comprise the Tumacacori National Historical Park.

Adopting a ‘Rustic’ Architecture, The Tumacacori National Historical Park is Truly a Sight to Behold!

Old Mission in Arizona

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Most of the sites in Tumacacori National Historical Park, albeit having modifications installed, are preserved ruins of the original mission complex.The Jesuit Mission Church, the Campo Santo (the original mission cemetery), the chapel, the priests’ quarters, the convent, and other facilities are in their natural condition.

There’s a big chance that what you’ll find most impressive is the Franciscan Church built by Spanish and Indian American laborers. Why is that?

Although the construction of the church was never finished, its aesthetic is unfettered by its incompleteness. You will see large adobe bricks plastered and adorned on the massive church walls.

Additionally, there is a rectangular and long nave paved on the walk. It shelters the altar at the northern end of the premise. Your eyes might also land on an original and beautiful painting plastered on the interior. As you walk along the church corridors, you’ll be taken aback as the atmosphere of the church rings vivid images of its former glory.

Under the National Park Service in the 1930s, attempts were made to blend the park with its surroundings, adopting a “rustic” architecture. Many permanent establishments were erected tainted in an earth-colored palette so they fit in with Arizona’s natural hue. When residences, visitor centers, and comfort rooms were built, they still hoped to retain the features of the Spanish Colonial Architecture.

Aside from Visiting the Mission Complex, You Can Also Hike, Lodge, and Camp!

Juan Batista de Anza National Historic Trail

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Staffed with National Park Service employees and volunteers, Tumacacori National Historical Park offers orientations and information about tours. If you are coming alone, you will also appreciate the self-guiding tour books available for purchase or borrowing. Join the guided tours available from January to March. However, there are some limits currently set for these challenging times.

Juan Batista de Anza National Historic Trail, which is popular for hiking, bird-watching, and horseback riding, also happens to pass by the said park, making it an enjoyable side trip as well. Unsurprisingly, a lot of people want to spend their days here.

Accommodation is abundant as the Tumacacori National Historical Park is located 45 miles south of Tucson and 18 miles north of Nogales. Hotels, inns, motels, bed-and-breakfasts, and other resorts are scattered across the area. If you want, you can even drop by the famous restaurant with an intriguing longhorn cow skull entrance!

Why You Should Give the Place A Visit

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Tumacacori National Historical Park in itself is laden with rich art; architectural art. There are also side perks to enjoy in this place, like the nearby trail, camping, and lodging options. Arizona’s treasured architecture is a packed experience in itself.

Tumacacori National Historical Park scenery

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Where else can you find a beautifully preserved church? Not to mention, the architecture speaks of a marvelous piece of history that anyone would surely appreciate. Beautiful yellow wildflowers surround this old Franciscan mission. You might as well take several good photos after you tour the place. Come February, you will be delighted to see the garden and the trees that make the environment much more pleasing and vibrant to look at.

The National Park Service once allowed individuals to fully explore the concept of nighttime at Tumacacori National Historical Park. With this experience, people engrossed themselves with the study of stars and see the life that is more active at night. It’s safe to say that that was a fascinating experience because not all parks are open after dusk. Make sure to check the park’s operating hours and website to learn more about the special programs and events.

The terrain in this area is flat so you won’t have a hard time walking around during the tour. You can stay for over an hour and hit the other interesting destinations nearby.

Your Experience At This Old Franciscan Mission Will Be Memorable

Arizona Mission

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This old mission is an absolutely breathtaking respite. You’ll find that there is so much to see here from the old graveyard, storehouses, wells, orchards, and gardens. This is definitely a must-visit if you are fascinated by historical architecture. You don’t even have to worry about coming alone. There is an informative video that will help you out before you go on your self-guided tour.

There’s a chance you will meet the amazing tortilla lady that every Tumacacori National Park visitor has been gushing about. Why? She makes tasty homemade tortillas onsite. Not only that, she will demonstrate the old way it was done. You definitely need to try it before you go!

Nearby Destinations You Can Visit

Coronado National Memorial (95 miles)

This is a massive nature preserve marking the route of Coronado’s historic quest for the 7 cities of gold. It is actually a historic and mountainous area bordering Mexico. The park commemorates and interprets the Coronado Expedition of 1540. Back in the day, the first Europeans entered what is now the American Southwest and northwest. If you come here, you will find a network of beautiful hiking trails that traverse the borderlands. There is also a large limestone cave you can explore. Not to mention, this place offers great opportunities for birding and wildlife watching.

Madera Canyon (33 miles)

The Madera Canyon is nestled in the northern slopes of the Santa Rita Mountain range. It boasts incredibly deep ravine with varied plant and animal life. You can find it just east of Green Valley and south of Tucson, Arizona. This place is absolutely perfect if you are looking forward to a great escape to the mountains from Green Valley or Tucson. The best things include the cool weather, stunning mountain views, and hiking activities.

Patagonia Lake State Park (31 miles)

You might also want to head down to Patagonia Lake State Park, a desert lake in the hills above Nogales. It is a 2.5-mile-long, 250-acre lake located near Patagonia. Many visitors come here when they feel like partaking in these activities: fishing, picnicking, camping, birding, boat rental, and hiking.

Tumacacori National Historical Park Location

1891 I-19 Frontage Rd, Tumacacori, Arizona 85640

What are you waiting for? Plan a trip to this beautiful 19th century Franciscan Mission. To see another beautiful church, check out this the Mission San Xavier del Bac said to be the “White Dove of the Desert.”