Discovery of Kino Chapel

"Our search had been "like looking for a needle in a haystack, but first we had to find the haystack!" There was little hope of finding or identifying Father Kino unless we could first find and positively identify the chapel in which Kino had been buried. This, in a nut shell, was our basic archaeological problem: it cannot be more simply stated. Yet at times the solution appeared elusive if not impossible."

Dr. William W. Wasley
"Archeological Notes on the Discovery of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino."

Map Showing Location of Father Kino''s Grave Site

Existing buildings shown: Magdalena Church ("Santa Maria Magdalena Church") (built 1832 and is the present parish church ) and City Hall ("Palacio Muncipal") (built 1910 and demolished to build Kino Masoleum and Square in 1970); Non-Exisitng buildings shown with foundation locations: Campos Church (built 1706 and destruction date unknown) and Kino Chapel ("La Capilla" and "Chapel of San Francisco Xavier") (built 1711 and destroyed completely in earthquake of 1887). Common view point for Image 1 and Image 2 near north direction arrow symbol.

Composite Sketch Tracing of 1938 Photo (Image 2)
overlayed by 1879 Pinart Drawing (Image 3)
Reveals Location of Kino Chapel Foundations
Within Inches of City Hall Clock Tower

The below photograph (Image 2) shows part of the facade of the present Magdalena Church as well as the clock tower of the City Hall. The ruin of the Kino Church no longer existed at the time of the picture was taken.

Amazingly, the photograph (Image 2) had been taken almost from same vantage spot or viewing place and with the same angle where Pinart had situated himself when he made his drawing (Image 3) of the present Magdalena Church and the ruin of the Kino Chapel (small tower immediately to left of clock tower). Same view point for Image 1 and Image 2 is approximately near the north direction arrow symbol in the map above.

Dr. Jorge Olvera used tracing paper and superimposed Image 2 on Image 3 using the same architectual registration points that match up in both Image 1 and Image 2 on the facade of the buildings to the right of the front entrance of the Magdalena Church that is in the background of both images.The Composite Sketch (Image 1) of the two images worked perfectly and based on the Composite Sketch Dr. Olvera predicted where Kino''s grave site would be found - right next to the clock tower of the City Hall and near its northeast corner. Dr. Olvera used architectural archeology to predict the location of the Kino Chapel.

The Composite Sketch was made 5 days before Kino''s skeletal remains were first discovered and just as the Mexican Federal Government was to stop funding.

Image 2
Post 1938 Photograph by Unknown Photographer

The clock tower of the City Hall is on the right and the Magdalena Church is on the left in the background with enclosed arch that was used as a common architectural registration point also found in Image 3.

Image 3
1879 Alphonse Pinart''s Drawing

The ruins of Kino''s Chapel with bell tower is on the right and the present Magdalena Church is on left in the background with building with arch that was enclosed at the time the photograph above (Image 2) was taken but could still be used as a common architectural registratiion point.

Image 4
1864 J. Ross Browne Drawing

Extensive excavations away from the City Hall of approximately 1.2 miles in length were made over a 2 month period. This was due in part by the mistaken interpretation of the system of perspective used in the Browne Drawing (Image 4) by the Project Leader, Dr. Olvera's superior. The Project Leader believed that the Browne Drawing was made from a single point of view with a single vanishing point and that buildings between the Magdalena Church and the Campos Church in the Browne Drawing continued to be aligned with the facade of the present Magdalena Church towards the northwest. The Kino Chapel is not depicted in the Browne Drawing. Also the Project Leader mistakenly believed that the structure with the tower in the Pinart drawing (Image 3) was the Campos Church and not the Kino Chapel. He did not the accept the analysis revealed in the Composite Sketch (Image 1).  After the arrival and advocacy of physical anthropologist Dr. Romano from INAH did the Project Leader allowed Dr. Olvera and Dr. William Wasley of the Arizona State Museum to dig trenches that revealed foundations that ran towards the City Hall.

Dr. Olvera''s correctly interpreted the Browne Drawing at the start of the excavations. He saw that the Browne Drawing used two different vanishing points in its system of perspective. The buildings between the Magdalena Church and the Campos Church actually moved away from the facade of the Magdalena Church in a perpendicular fashion in a due northwesterly direction toward the City Hall. This interpretation along with Dr. Olvera''s historical analysis of the architecture in the Pinart drawing (Image 3).revealed the location of the Kino Chapel and its buried foundations.

Further documentary evidence confirmed the location of the Kino Chapel. Fernando Grande's 1828 report described the north south orientation of the Kino Chapel with its entrance in the south wall. Fr. Perez Llera's 1828 report of construction of butress to on of the chapel walls that was in danger of collaspe. The Kino Jesuit era building foundations and walls were made from very different materials than the later Franciscan foundations and walls.  . All these architectural components were confirmed by the team's excavations. 

Once the Kino Chapel was found Kino's skeletal remains were located within the Chapel by the evidence described in the burial records. Click Grave Discovery.

For excerpts from Jorge Olvera account of the discovery of Kino's Remains in "Finding Father Kino: The Discovery of the Remains of Father Euesbio Francisco Kino 1965-1966" 
Click website page
Grave - Olvera Account 

Discussion on perspective and double vanishing points of Browne drawing on pages 80 - 82 of Finding Father Kino 


More Detailed Map Showing Kino's Grave Site
Foundations of Kino Era Structures Shown in Solid Black

A 1967 aerial view looking west over Magdalena de Kino, Sonora after the discovery of Kino''s grave site and before construction of the new plaza in 1970. The letters mark locations: A: Old Kino monument. B: Magdalena Church
C: Palacio Municipal (City Hall) with clock tower. D: Vacant lot. E: Jail. F: Rio Magdalena. G: Tent over northwest segment of the Kino Chapel with Kino''s remains. H: Tent over southeast segment of Kino Chapel with remains of Salvador de Noriega. I: Railroad tracks of the Ferrocarril del Pacifico. J: Magdalena Church office. Its entryway was part of the old arch that Olvera used as an architectural registration point for his Composite Sketch (Image 1)  The location of letter J is seen between Location B and the words "Calle Francisco I. Madero."

Location of Kino's Grave Site under Temporary Ramada
Marked by "X" Next to Magdalena City Hall

Summary of Finding Father Kino
Dr. Bernard L. Fontana 

On February 14, 1965, on the fifty-third anniversary of Arizona's admission to the union as a state, a larger-than-life-size bronze statue of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino was dedicated and presented as the last of Arizona's two representatives in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol. (The other is a statue of copper magnate John C. Greenway). Among the distinguished guests at the unveiling and dedication ceremony was the Honorable Hugo Margin, ambassador from Mexico. It was possibly the ambassador who alerted Mexican President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz that Americans were paying singular homage to a man who belonged as much to Sonora and Mexico as he did to Arizona and the United States.

Soon after, President Díaz Ordaz charged his Secretary of Public Education, Agustin Yáñez, with the task of locating and positively identifying Father Kino's mortal remains, a job which the secretary assigned on June 30 to Professor Wigberto Jiménez Moreno, head of the Department of Historical Research of Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History.

Beginning in August 1965, a half year after the statue's dedication, an international team of investigators headed by Jiménez Moreno arrived in Magdalena, where it was known Father Kino had died in 1711, to begin the search on the ground. It was a hunt that had gone on sporadically at least since 1922 when Bishop Juan Navarette tried without success to locate the grave site.

In addition to Jiménez Moreno, the principal investigators were Jorge Olvera H., an art and architecture historian with a background in archaeology; Arturo Romano P., physical anthropologist; Jorge Angula, archaeologist; Sonoran historians Fernando Pesqueira and Father Cruz Acuña; cartographer Conrado Gallegos; chemist Gabriel Sánchez de la Vega; and Americans William W. Wasley, archaeologist, and Father Kieran R. McCarty, O.F.M., historian.

As work proceeded, it became known from documentary and published sources that Father Kino had died at the age of sixty-five on the night of March 15, 1711, and had been buried on the Gospel side of the altar between the second and third ashlars (foundation stones) in the new chapel he had just dedicated to San Francisco Xavier. It was also learned that the year after Kino's death two other Jesuits were exhumed from their original burial places in Tubutama and their bones, in a jumble, were reburied on the Epistle and Gospel sides of the church. In 1739, Spaniard Salvador de Noriega was buried at the entrance to the chapel. and in 1837, José Gabriel Vega was buried beneath the nave. In 1828, Father José Pérez Llera had put a stone buttress next to part of the slumping east wall of the chapel.

As work in archives and libraries proceeded, so did work in the field. Members of the team looked carefully at the construction materials and techniques used at the ruins of Remedios, a church known to have been built by Father Kino. So did they examine the adobe walls and stone foundations at Cocospera and carry out excavations in Magdalena in places where earlier excavations had occurred, and where their own sense of the unfolding evidence took them.

Finally, it was Jorge Olvera and his expert reading of three nineteenth-century depictions of Magdalena  -  those by John Russell Bartlett (1852), John Ross Browne (1864), and Alphonse Pinart (1879) - that enabled the excavators to zero in on the most likely location of Father Kino's chapel. These drawings indicated the location of Father Agustín Campos's 1705 church in relation to the 1832 church of Father Pérez Llera (the one presently in use), and to Father Kino's chapel. The location of the latter proved to be in an area immediately next to the city hall.

On May 19, 1966, Father Kino's bones were found. He lay undisturbed on the Gospel side of the altar between the second and third ashlars precisely as he had been buried some 255 years earlier. Near him were the secondary burials of the two Tubutama Jesuits, and in the nave of the chapel and just beyond its entrance were the primary burials of 1739 and 1837. Father Pérez Llera's buttress was against the outside of the east wall. Examination of the skeleton, moreover, revealed a European male who was at least sixty years old, showed signs of arthritis (Kino had trouble writing and riding in his later years), and who, unmentioned in the documents, had lost two central incisors long before he died (the tooth sockets had grown over). His coffin was gone, but a simple cassock button remained on his breastbone and a small crucifix lay on his collarbone.

The discovery of Father Kino's remains transformed Magdalena. Its name is now officially Magdalena de Kino and the archaeological remains of Father Campos's early eighteenth-century church, was completely redesigned by architect Francisco Artigus and rebuilt in 1970 and 1971 as the beautiful memorial plaza seen there today.

Bernard L. Fontana
"Finding Father Kino"
"The Pimería Alta - Missions and More" 1996

To download the summary of the Finding Father Kino account written by Dr.Bernard L. Fontana in 1996, Click Finding Father Kino Fontana.

To download "Archaeology Notes on the Discovery of Father Eusebio Kino" written by Dr. William W. Wasley in 1966, Click Archaeology Notes on Discovery of Kino by Wasley

Finding Father Kino's Grave - Two Page Summary Flyer

To Download

"Finding Father Kino's Grave Summary"
  Two Page Flyer

Summary Page 1
Summary Page 2

To Go To Burial Site Page
Kino Grave Discovery - page 1 
Click Grave - Burial Site

To Go To Olvera Account Page
Kino Grave Discovery - page 3 
Click Grave - Olvera Account

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