Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Kino's Cabinet

The Mission San Xavier Del Bac is a dream shooting location.  It's an historic Spanish Catholic Mission on the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation just outside of Tucson.  If you see nothing else while in Tucson, see this one!!

Francis Xavier was a missionary and co-founder of the Jesuit Order in Europe.  He built this Mission near the first church here, but it was razed by the Apache in 1770.  In 1783, it was rebuilt and is the oldest European structure in Arizona.  The local Tohono O'odham people provided the labor.  You will be amazed when you look inside at the best example of Spanish Colonial Architecture in the U.S.
Repairs are always on-going on the structure to keep it standing.  You'd be deteriorating a little too if you were over 200 years old.  On this day they were stabilizing the foundation.  Made of adobe bricks, it absorbs water.  The coating originally put on the outside in an effort to save the building, did disastrous damage ... it held the water in instead of letting it out.  That is being corrected little by little.
Following Mexican Independence in 1821, all Spanish-born priests were banned and the mission was left to decay.  With the Gadsden Purchase in 1854, the little mission came back to the Territory of Arizona and became part of the Diocese of Tucson.  This fish eye lens image gives you an idea of it's size.  The little mission is taller inside than it is wide, with the most amazing paintings and artwork you've ever seen.
Luckily I went early ... like 9:00 early if you want to beat the crowds.  I'm not sure if people are really that rude or if they just have no clue, but they will step in front of you, even after seeing you are taking a picture.  They can also be loud and obnoxious ... this is a church people, please be respectful.

As you can see above, all the bottom walls are painted these bright colors with 3-D designs.   There are many wooden statues and paintings on the walls that have been there over 200 years and still look to be in perfect condition.  
You won't believe your eyes when you see the altar.  Words do not give it justice.    In 1872 the Sisters of St. Joseph Carondelet began a school for the Papago children (now known as Tohono O'odham).  The Franciscans returned to the Mission in 1913 and built an even larger school next to the Mission which is still in use today.
As you can see from the ceiling, the cement-based stucco they used trapped water inside, which disintegrated the paintings.  Now a traditional mud based plaster with prickly pear cactus is being used as it allows the water to evaporate.   
I don't know if the ceilings will be repaired or not.  Is there someone alive that can repaint these amazing designs?  
Built in the shape of a classic Latin Cross, the sanctuary is separated by a transept which has chapels at each end.  You could probably sit here for an hour and still say "look at that" ... "look at THAT"!!
Candles are for sale in the museum, which can be lit and placed at each chapel.  By the way, please PLEASE do not use the flash on your camera or phone.  It deteriorates the paintings.  I know you ask why, but believe me, it does, especially after 200,000 visitors.  I was told to mind my own business when I mentioned it to one lady who took probably 150 pictures, all with her flash.  I don't care, just turn that darn thing OFF!!
The museum itself was set up in three or four of the small rooms, but were closed this time due to the foundation repairs.  As you look through the arches at the courtyard, you can just imagine people getting water from the little fountain.  Tourists are not allowed into this area.  
The entire outside is landscaped in some of the most beautiful cactus I've seen.   The building on the left is another small chapel.  The Mission is open daily, but basically closed for Sunday Mass, which you are actually welcome to attend.  Just don't go around pointing and taking pictures during services.  I know, I shouldn't have to say that.
Of course I took oodles of images, but I really did try to pare it down.  I just love that they left this old dead tree in the courtyard.  
There is a huge empty lot in front of the Mission that is used for the San Xavier Festival on the Friday evening after Easter.  It's a torch light parade with the Tohono O'odham and Yaqui tribal members.
Outside THAT area are some stick canopies used by the locals to designate their area of the food vendors.  Most of them serve the same thing, Indian Tacos and Fry Bread with honey and powdered sugar.  They cook over wood fires in pots at least 50 years old.  The broken ice chest lid didn't help much in keeping the soda cold, but the food was delicious.  I ordered a red chili and bean combo.  It's not your mother's chili ... be prepared to eat some traditional food, or stick to the honey and sugar.
I found a shady spot out front to sit while I scarfed down lunch.  This little guy practically sat on my shoulder as I tossed him tiny bits.  I also became close friends with two local dogs who respectfully lay at my feet until I was done.  They got the leftovers.
In the gift shop last year I noticed a very small sign that said pottery enthusiasts should ask Judy to see Kino's Cabinet.  I asked, but she was never there when I was.  It must have been fate, because this time they said she would be coming in soon.  I bought a coffee cup to pass the time.
When she arrived and we met, she told me the cabinet was basically empty.  RATS!!  I followed her back to a tiny room with an even smaller bookcase.  That's all there is she said, as I looked over maybe ten pottery pieces.  "I really need to recoup my money on these for the Mission, so I'll make you a deal you can't refuse" she said.  I bought all but three, for a price equal to an 85% discount.  It helped I think that she and I both raised and trained horses.   I got pottery, she got her money back.  WIN WIN!!
The fairgrounds are looking good and all the new RV full hookup sites should be done in about a week, just in time for the Escapade.  You're going to be surprised when you drive in the gate.  We lost power a time or two, and although I asked about it, I got the standard answer No Comprende English.  

That made me leery to spend much time away from the puppies and Jonathan.  No power means overheated animals since the sun had finally come out to shine, but I did make it to the zoo.  What?  You didn't know Tucson had a zoo?  It's a pretty good one too ... but that's for tomorrow.


  1. Love that Spanish Church, different than the Greek Orthodox Churches, both of which are real interesting. Sure can see the pride of the worker in their work building these type of churches.

    1. I would love to see how they did it, Dave. Is it all carved out of wood and attached? Is it molded out of plaster? How do they make them??

  2. I have been here twice and I am sure I have not seen everything. Absolutely love it I bought 2 woven bear grass baskets at the gift shop. It does pain me how disrespectful people can be in a church.

    1. It's a beautiful example of workmanship, that's for sure Corky. I could sit and look at the walls for hours!!