Named after Francis Xavier, a Christian missionary, Mission San Xavier del Bac is an historic Spanish mission just 10 miles south of Tucson, Arizona. Founded in 1692 by Padre Esuebio Kino, it was placed in the middle of the Native American settlement of Tohono O’odham on the banks of the Santa Cruz River. Built near the site of a church from 1700, the mission, considered to be one of the best examples of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States was built between 1783-1797. It is the oldest European building in Arizona.
Because the original church at this site proved vulnerable to attacks by the Apache and was destroyed in 1770, the larger and more secure mission we see today had to be built. The Native American converts to Christianity provided some protection to the new church as well.
Unlike other Spanish missions in the United States, San Xavier is actively run by the Franciscans. Their work has made is an active community member and the Native community for which it was originally built still congregate there. The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, have worked, prayed, and lived at the attached school since 1872. To keep this in perspective, the State of Arizona was not founded till 1912.
Open to the public every day and with over 200,000 annual visitors, the mission has become a site for pilgrimage. Many people walk or ride horses from nearby towns in the heat to visit. The mission was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960.