Mission San Xavier del Bac: The White Dove of the Desert

Sistine Chapel of the New World

Mission San Xavier del Bac, sometimes called The White Dove of the Desert, is acclaimed as the finest example of mission architecture in the U.S., southwest of Tucson on Tohono O’odham Reservation. Enjoy a self-guided tour of one of Tucson’s treasures, the Mission San Xavier del Bac. This striking mission is situated in a location known as “Bac” by the early Tohono O’odham people. Bac translates into “the place where water appears”. The Santa Cruz River which ran underground in many spots reappeared nearby making this a remarkable location.

Seeing this magnificent mission from a distance is breathtaking, a white beauty against a backdrop of blue sky and desert scenery makes for a sight like no other. Getting to walk within its walls is a sacred and humbling experience you won’t want to miss.

The original Mission was founded in 1700 a few miles north of the current site. The Mission San Xavier del Bac which now stands was built from 1783-1797 by Franciscan Fathers. This gorgeous building is said by many to be one of the finest examples of Mission architecture in the U.S. and when you see it for yourself, you’re likely to agree. Pure white towers reach towards the heavens, earning this mission the nickname “the White Dove of the Desert”.

The Mission San Xavier del Bac has been actively serving the faithful on and off for over 200 years and is currently a parish church affiliated with the Diocese of Tucson. In fact, the faithful have served the Mission as well, protecting it from vandalism, destruction, Apache attacks, and decay over the course of its rich and colorful history. The Native Americans protected the Mission during turbulent times, even going so far as to bury mission artifacts for safekeeping. When peace returned to the mission, the treasures were unearthed and returned. Today, the Mission continues to undergo restoration thanks to the generosity of parishioners and visitors alike.

The Mission is open daily from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM year-round and offers free parking and free admission to the grounds and the on-site museum. You can sit in the pews of the church and listen to an audiotape telling the history of Mission San Xavier. Because of the need to restore this precious treasure, a small donation is always appreciated.

Mission San Xavier del Bac is about ten miles southwest of Tucson and well worth a stop during your visit to the area. In fact, this mission has been called the “Sistine Chapel of the New World”. While no one knows the architect or the artists responsible for the stunning building and its artwork within its walls, it is a true masterpiece and a sight to behold.

What to Expect

Patronato San Xavier, a nonsectarian nonprofit organization, has launched the ‘White Dove Campaign’ to restore the East Tower of San Xavier del Bac. It is a major project in the continued effort to restore and preserve the structural integrity of this 200-year old National Historic Landmark.

Every day the Mission has pilgrims, tourists and locals pray to Saint Francis for intercessionary pray to God.

There are countless people who say that their prayers have been answered through the intercession of
Saint Francis.

This tradition goes back to Father Ignacio Joseph Ramirez y Arellano who is believed to have had a miraculous state in death that was witnessed by people from all over the Tucson area.

Those who believe come with needs, requests, and thanksgiving for answered prayers.

Here you offer you the ability to have your prayers printed and put with the Saint.  If you’d like this to be done please fill out the box to your right with your intention and we will print it out and offer it to Saint Francis.  This will be done privately and no one else will see your request/prayer.

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