Mission San Xavier del Bac

"White Dove of the Desert"

"White Dove of the Desert" © 2011 Bo Mackison

Mission San Xavier del Bac is located only a few minutes south of Tucson, Arizona, on the Tohono O’Odham Indian Reservation. The mission was founded by Father Eusebio Kino, a Franciscan missionary, in 1692. Father Kino also founded the mission at Tumacacori, located 20 miles south of San Xavier, and several other missions in southern Arizona and in Sonora, Mexico.

The church, which is a National Historic Landmark, was built in 1783-1797. It is the oldest European structure in the state of Arizona.

Sacristy,  Mission San Xavier del Bac

Sacristy, Mission San Xavier del Bac © 2011 Bo Mackison

San Xavier’s interior is filled with many pieces of original statues and mural paintings, all dating from the 18th Century. The Baroque architecture has many dramatic features including painted faux doors, wood sculptures painted to resemble marble, and many niches that hold statues in curtained surroundings. It is all quite intricate and full of ingenious detailing.

Mission San Xavier del Bac, Interior

Interior, Mission San Xavier del Bac © 2011 Bo Mackison

Once inside the church, one barely knows where to look first. There are more than 300 angels an over one hundred saints represented in paintings, sculptures or bas reliefs. Many of them are highlighted in gold leaf.

It is hard not to look in amazement at the decorative features that cover nearly every inch of this masterpiece. The church has undergone several restoration projects, and some of the nations’ most talented art conservators gave new life to much of the art a decade ago. It’s an amazing collection of church art, considering it was conceived and constructed over 200 years ago.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She is living in Tucson for two months, exhibiting her photography in art shows, taking photographs, and blogging about photography, art fairs, and living life “solo.”  There are many gifts to find, here in the desert.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Gandalf says:

    This mission is truly spectacular.

  2. Joanne Keevers says:

    Bo, I wonder if any priest has been able to hold the attention of their congregation in a building as spectacular as this! I’m afraid I’d be far more interested in exploring, than sitting and listening. 🙂

    • Bo Mackison says:

      The parishioners, I suspect, become accustomed to this beauty. It’s probably the visitors that cannot quit gawking over each new discovery.

  3. I’ve been there, Bo, and it is so beautiful on the inside. As colorful and lively on the inside as it is white and bold on the outside. Truly a photographer’s paradise. And it’s so close to the road you can see it long before you get there as the sun blazes on that bright white surface. Wow. LOVE your photos! I can smell the place – that lovely ancient dusty smell. Gotta go…gotta go back.

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