Founded by a Jesuit priest in 1692, Mission San Xavier del Bac is believed to be the oldest European-style building in Tucson. The carved facade and two brilliant white towers of this active Roman Catholic church are a stark contrast to the surrounding hills and desert. Inside the church are dozens of paintings, frescoes, carvings, statues and ornaments.
The first thing that captures your attention after passing through the entrance is the colossal altar piece. Move closer to study the intricate carvings that tell the biblical story of creation. Look to the left and you’ll see a glass sarcophagus containing a statue of St. Francis Xavier, in whose honor the church was built. Visitors pin small metal symbols to the effigy’s cloth covering, representing the miracles they are praying for.
Take your time to appreciate the artwork. Every wall is covered with paintings, columns are decorated with angel sculptures and statues of saints are tucked away in niches. Note the repeating theme of the shell in pictures, window treatments and on the facade and figurines. The shell has has been a symbol of Christian pilgrimage for hundreds of years.
During your visit you may notice some reconstruction work. An earthquake and lightning strikes in previous centuries have weakened parts of the structure. Renovations are ongoing when funds are available.
After leaving the church, learn more about its history by visiting the small museum next door. See religious artifacts and historic mementos such as the oldest known photograph of Mission San Xavier del Bac, dating to the early 1870s. Watch the 20-minute video that covers the church’s past and the restoration work.
Mission San Xavier del Bac is open daily from early morning until late afternoon. Located in the Santa Cruz Valley, the church is 12 miles (19 kilometers) south of downtown Tucson, just off the interstate highway. Admission and on-site car parking are free.
Make the most of your time spent at Mission San Xavier del Bac. Here is a list of some of the most popular activities:
Want to discover this famed attraction in an unforgettable way? Then you can't go past a Guided History of the City Tour.
For many more activities, peruse our Tucson things to do page.
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Room was nice. Pool area was small but there was plenty of seating. We brought our own food and drink to the pool which was nice. The hotel is a good 15-20 min drive from downtown.
The owners were great! They responded quickly every time we had a question. The backyard was a great place to sit and relax. The only downside was the pool. It wasn’t heated so the kids weren’t impressed with the really cold water. We probably should have thought of that but it didn’t cross our minds. ...
I rented the place for 10 days, the place was clean and very quiet , close to the gem show and, the owners were very friendly, will recomend the place if you are in Tucson
Situated in Tucson, this vacation home is within 9 mi (15 km) of Sewailo Golf Club, Mission San Xavier del Bac, and Tucson Mountain Park. Santa Cruz Church and Garden of Gethsemane are also within 9 mi (15 km).