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Known as the White Dove of the Desert or the Sistine Chapel of the New World, Mission San Xavier del Bac is a visual wonder. Located just ten miles outside of Tucson, this 18th century beauty is full of original art, sculpture, carvings, frescoes, and paintings that reflect both Spanish and Native American traditions.
First established in 1692 by a Jesuit priest, Mission San Xavier del Bac was named after Saint Francis Xavier. In 1768, the original building was destroyed and the one that stands now was erected. It is commonly believed the Tohono O’odham Indians, who have long owned this land and protected the site, are to thank for the construction and artistic beauty here.
Due to deterioration over time, the Mission has been extensively restored to reflect it's original glory. The artists that worked on the Sistine Chapel even came in to assist in the process. Mud plaster that includes prickly pear juice, a traditional building material that allows the walls to "breathe" and not retain damaging water, now coats the interior.
Mission San Xavier del Bac is considered one of the best remaining examples of Spanish Colonial architecture in the country. Hosting over 200,000 visitors a year, it continues to serve the local Native American community as an active place of worship.
Everything here begs to be photographed, from the white exterior of the Mission that plays so well off a blue sky and desert fauna, to the elaborate, colorful interior full of artistic treasures. Many people even find the mesquite carved wood doors at the entrance a great place to take a shot. Snap away!
Cover photo credit: lobolouie505 via Instagram.