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San Xavier Mission

Visiting San Xavier del Bac Mission


  • Hours: Open daily, except Easter Sunday and December 25
  • Reservations: Not required
  • Cost: Free, but donations appreciated
  • Location: South of Tucson, driving directions below
  • How Long: Allow about an hour
  • Best Time to Visit: Any time, but the San Xavier Mission is a working church and the sanctuary will be busy during Mass
  • See It Now: Photo Tour

San Xavier Mission

Some say San Xavier Mission is the finest example of mission architecture in the United States, and I won't disagree. Having visited all of California's 21 Spanish missions as well as others in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, I've never seen one so beautiful.

Built between 1783 and 1797, San Xavier Mission's white walls rise imposingly amid the surrounding desert. Outside, it's a white, Moorish-inspired design, elegant and simple, with an ornately-decorated entrance.

Inside, the mission glows with color, painted frescoes covering the altar, walls and arched ceiling. Beautiful if built in any era, it's all the more fascinating because of its age.

Spanish missionaries built San Xavier Mission in the place the native Tohono O'odham people called Bac, "place where the water appears" because the Santa Cruz River, which runs underground, surfaces nearby. Father Eusebio Francisco Kino founded the mission here in 1700 and used it as a base for exploring the area. Today, it's an active parish church, still serving the Tohono O'odham Nation.

Besides the mission's small gift shop, you'll find a cafe on the grounds, and on weekends, you may find someone set up under a shelter in front selling local Fry Bread.

Getting to San Xavier Mission

San Xavier Mission
1950 W. San Xavier Road
San Xavier, AZ
To reach San Xavier Mission from Tucson, take I-19 south. Exit at exit 92, San Xavier Road, and follow the signs, turning right onto W. San Xavier Road, then right on S. Little Nogales Drive and right once more toward the San Xavier Mission parking lot.

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