Sometimes you find a jewel, something akin to a diamond, where you never expected. I've seen pictures of the White Dove Of The Desert, but never did I expect to see this beauty in the middle of nowhere. Mission San Xavier Del Bac is the only remaining intact mission in Arizona and the finest example of Mexican Baroque architecture in the United States.
Patty, granddaughter Laila and I went to see the mission so I could take some pictures. It's off Highway 19, south of Tucson.
In 1692 a Jesuit, Father Kino, visited the Tehono O'odham Indian village of Wa:k, and by 1700 had begun the foundation for his church. With the land changing hands over many years, this second church was finally built in 1783, using local native materials.
Outside in the huge grand procession yard, natives sell Indian tacos and tamales for your enjoyment. I should warn you about the bees however. If you get Indian fry bread with powdered sugar and honey, eat with extreme caution. People were swarmed with bees looking for the sweet stuff!!
This church is still in operation today, run by Franciscan pastors and sisters. As in days of old, they have an effigy of a Saint lying in an alcove. It is said only the faithful can raise his head with their hand and be rewarded with blessings. This being Miss Laila's first introduction to very old Catholicism, she thought it rather creepy ... after all, she's only ten!!
As we walked around quietly, we tried to explain to Laila what she was seeing. Did you ever try to explain a very old religion to an adult, let alone a kid??
We did our best as we marveled at the Mexican baroque statues and paintings around the small chapel. The detail and colors are truly amazing!!
With the little church falling into disrepair, in 1978 the Patronato was organized to raise money for restoration. Some areas covered with cement had to be chipped away and replaced with plaster made from the surrounding adobe. Some construction is with adobe bricks and some fired brick, which when covered with cement, wasn't allowing the walls to release moisture, causing the bricks to crumble inside.
Still in full operation, the Franciscan Sisters of Charity even run a small school here, K-8th grade. These pictures just don't do it justice.
The original church built a short distance away was finally dismantled and used to build a compound outside the Mission to help protect them from raids and attacks.
This small chapel to the side houses an altar filled with statuary and candles.
To the left is a small gift shop and museum where you can see the restoration work in progress. It's just a spectacular gem in the desert, not to be missed if you are anywhere near this area.
Just as we were leaving, we noticed the crowd outside the church. It's a wedding party!! The men were all dressed up in black zoot suits, with hats, chains and spats ... all except the one in the cowboy hat who forgot his!!
Once everyone was escorted out of the chapel, the bride and her party (that's mom in gold and we think her father behind her with a braided pony tail all the way down his back) proceeded inside. We never did see the groom.
The flower girls were cute as could be, including the ring bearer, but I got a few bad looks for taking pictures. In spite of smiling and giving her a little wave, she never changed her expression!! Note the sunglasses on the ring bearer.
It was then that we both got in trouble. Having been inside the church, we turned off our phones. Dan and son Mark were trying to get ahold of us so Laila could return home. We raced off, leaving the White Dove of the Desert. Some day I'll return and spend more time here. When you walk the same ground as the ancient Indians and sit in the same vestibule, you're changed forever. History just seeps into your veins.
We still have a long list of places to go and things to see, including Tubac, Sierra Vista and my favorite Tombstone as well as several more houses to check out. It looks like I may extend my stay here.