San Xavier Mission Photo Gallery

Text and Photos by Tobey Schmidt

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The San Xavier Mission is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona. It was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. The Mission continues to minister to the religious needs of its parishioners, which was the original purpose.

Father Kino was unable to build the church he envisioned before his death in 1711. The church was taken over by Father Espinosa and then by Spanish Franciscan’s when the Jesuits were expelled from New Spain. Construction on the present day structure began in 1783 when a Franciscan missionary borrowed money from a Sonoran rancher, hired an architect and a large force of O’odham to help build it. It was completed in 1797. In 1821 the San Xavier Mission became part of Mexico after their independence. Just 33 years later the Gadsden Purchase puts the Mission back in the United States.

Extensive repairs to the church had to happen on two separate occasions due to an earthquake and a lightning strike. Then again when water seeped into the west wall of the church’s sanctuary. In 1963, which was 166 years after the construction was completed, the Mission became a National Historic Landmark.

The San Xavier Mission is just 9 miles south of downtown Tucson. It’s open to the public daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., except during times of service which can be found on their website at  The Mission also has a gift shop and a history museum, open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.