Mission San Xavier del Bac

Mission San Xavier del Bac and Santa Catalina Mountain Range

"The greatness of new missions will shine not only in the eternity of heaven, but
also in the most desolate and remote regions of the world." 
 Eusebio Francisco Kino

San Xavier Online References

To view 65 of 351 pages of the definitive book on the Mission -
"A Gift of Angels: The Art of Mission San Xavier Del Bac"
written by Bernard L. Fontana and photographed by Edward McCain.
Click Fontana's Art 

To view more incredible interior photos and personal reflections
by Miguel Peréz from his blog HiddenHispanicHeritage.com
Click English Text  and  Spanish Text

Virtual Tour of the Church Interior  

Take this amazing and easy tour of the interior of the Mission church by clicking on the home page at http://www.sanxaviermission.org/ 

Then click on the image of the Mission church's front doors as shown in Mission's home page as shown above. Move the siting rectangle and use directional arrows on the floor to navigate.. 

Blue Shell Conference
Kino’s Ride for Justice
Spring 1700

Kino's 20 Hour 75 Mile Ride For Justice

Kino kept thinking about the simple, precious gift the sturdy Yumans had given him at San Pedro ­ those blue abalone shells. Those shells were seen by him only once, fifteen years before on the mapping expedition to the "opposite shore" of the Isla de California!

While Padre Eusebio was at Remedios, a chieftain from the Gila Pimas arrived with news of the river peoples and a cross strung with 20 blue shells, a gift from the governor of the Cocomaricopas.

Kino pulled up at San Xavier del Bac. With the question of the shells very much on his mind, he decided to send out inquiries about the origins of the blue shells. Runners went north, west and even east to call the great chiefs to a "Blue Shell Conference" at Bac.

In a matter of days the Padre's messages got a response; chiefs and couriers came with the certain information that the blue shells from the Yuma's could not have come from the Gulf because the blue-crusted abalone didn't occur in those dense waters. They had been traded hand to hand from the distant Pacific.

While waiting for the replies, Kino devoted his time to instructing the Sobaípuris in the catechism, and, true to his nature, he directed the laying of foundations for a large church. It was time to petition for a permanent transfer to Bac.

He saddled up and rode south toward Dolores. At dawn on May 3, Kino was preparing to say Mass at San Cayetano de Tumacácori when he was handed a letter from Father Campos at San Ignacio. It was an urgent summons for him to intervene in the scheduled execution, May 4, of a prisoner in the custody of the soldiers. Riding until midnight, he rested at Imuris, reaching San Ignacio at sunrise - just in time to celebrate Mass and save a poor Piman from death.

Permission was granted for the transfer to Bac - he only needed to wait for a replacement, a replacement that never ever came. With confidence and expectation at that time Kino dispatched 700 head of livestock to restart the mission farms at Bac and he set about making plans for an expedition to the Colorado.”

Charles W. Polzer, S.J.
"Kino: A Legacy" 

Notes:Based on the information shared at the Blue Shell Conference in the spring of 1700, Kino made more expeditions to the Colorado River region and its people. Kino proved that California was part of the mainland and was not an island as commonly believed. Kino’s discovery revived the missionary efforts in Baja California that Kino began in 1683. Based on his precise observations,

Kino drew his famous 1701 map of the Sonoran Desert that was published in Europe during his lifetime and used for 150 years after his death in 1711.

The Blue Shell Conference & Kino's Ride for Justice  
To View and Download Two Accounts

Frank C. Lockwood
Click Lockwood

"A String Of Twenty Blue Shells Give The Final Clue"
"Kino as a Practical Man of Affairs"
Chapters from "With Padre Kino on the Trail"  pp 82-86; pp 133-138
Frank C. Lockwood

Charles W. Polzer
Click Polzer

"Blue Shells - Bother or Boon?"
Chapter from "Kino: A Legacy"  pp 68-70C
Charles W. Polzer

Kino's First Sermon
To The Sobaípuri People of Bac
Summer 1692

Santa Maria del Pilar Mural at Mission San Xavier del Bac

Appearance of Santa María del Pilar Before St. James near Compostela, Spain
West Chapel Mural, Mission San Xavier

"I spoke to them of the Word of God, and on a map of the world showed them the lands, the rivers, and the seas over which we fathers had come from afar to bring them the saving knowledge of our holy faith. And I told them also how in ancient times the Spaniards were not Christians, how Santiago came to teach them the faith, and how for the first fourteen years he was able to baptize only a few, because of which the holy apostle was discouraged, but that the most holy Virgin appeared to him and consoled him, telling him that the Spaniards would convert the rest of the people of the world."

"And I showed them on the map of the world how the Spaniards and the faith had come by sea to Vera Cruz, and had gone in to Puebla and to Mexico, Guadalajara, Sinaloa, and Sonora, and now to Nuestra Señora de los Dolores del Cosari, in the land of the Pimas, where there were already many persons baptized, a house, church, bells, and images of saints, plentiful supplies, wheat, maize, and many cattle and horses; that they could go and see it all, and even ask at once of their relatives, my servants, who were with me."

"They listened with pleasure to these and other talks concerning God, heaven, and hell, and told me that they wished to be Christians, and gave me some infants to baptize. These Sobaípuris are in a very fine valley of the Rio de Santa María, to the west."

  Eusebio Francisco Kino
 "Journey Northward To The Sobaípuris"
 "Favores Celestiales"
  August 23, 1692

Notes: The world map that Padre Kino showed the Sobaípuri people during the first sermon at Bac was drawn by his professor in Germany, the famous cartographer Adam Aigenler.

Kino recounts the story of Santiago, the apostle St. James the Greater, and his missionary efforts in Spain and how  Blessed Virgin Mary (Santa Maria del Pilar) appeared to St. James to tell him not to despair. The Cathedral of St. James in Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain is at the end of the historic and important pilgrimage route called El Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James). Kino named the valley where Mission San Xavier del Bac is located the valley of the Rio de Santa María del Pilar in honor of Blessed Virgin Mary's appearance to St. James. The valley's name was changed to the valley of the Rio de Santa Cruz in 1787, after the Spanish militarized the frontier 50 years after Kino's death.

Mission San Xavier del Bac, like the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, is internationally recognized as a pilgrimage church.

¡ Buen Camino !  — ¡ Buen Camino de Kino !

World Map Aigenier

World Map by Kino's Professor Adam Aigenler, S.J. Shown During the First Sermon

Pilgrimage to San Xavier
Dr. Bernard L. Fontana 

Pilgrims' Prayer Intentions Pinned To
Reclining Statue of St. Franics Xavier
Mission San Xavier del Bac, Arizona

To become a pilgrim is to embark on an adventure, to leave the comfort and security of one's home, neighbors, and familiar surroundings as an act of faith. It can be motivated by the need to do penance. It may be Inspired by a sense of thanksgiving. It can be a sacrifice offered in petition.

A pilgrimage must, however, have a sacred place as its goal.

The tradition of pilgrimage is as old as organized religion. And the custom is alive and thriving in southern Arizona where Mission San Xavier del Bac, founded in 1700 by Jesuit missionary Eusebio Kino, has become the magnet for peregrinos, pilgrims, who walk to the mission, hundreds of them each year.

The journey has to be on foot. Driving or riding doesn't count.

The Mission San Xavier we see today was built by Franciscans between the late 1770s and 1797. It is the parish church for Papago Indians who live on the San Xavier Indian Reservation; it is one of Arizona's most popular tourist attractions; and, beginning possibly as early as the last century, it has become a center of pilgrimage for many of the region's Mexicanos or, Americans of Mexican descent who are bearers of a Christian tradition rooted in antiquity.

The mission is located about nine miles south of downtown Tucson. On any day of the week, but especially on weekends, pilgrims make their way south along Mission Road or east along San Xavier Loop Road toward the church. They walk singly, in pairs, trios, or in larger groups. Their heads are uncovered, or they wear wide-brimmed hats, baseball caps, or bandannas. A few wear the religious habit of a saint or sectarian figure. Some carry umbrellas. They may carry water bottles and be without visible logistical support. Or they may walk ahead of a car or truck that will park, then catch up again every few hundred yards. They walk unaided, although some use walking sticks, canes, even crutches.

The pilgrims are of all ages: young children who are hardly more than toddlers, boys and girls, young men, women - some with babies in arms - middle-aged, and elderly. Some stand erect; others are stop shouldered. Some walk briskly; others, idly, playing as they go and aiming rocks at rabbits or birds in the brush beside the road; still others shuffle along, painfully determined to make it all the way to their destination. There are those who laugh, smile, and talk. There are those whose countenances are grim, sad, or reflective and who say little or nothing.

They share a common goal. It is to cover the miles on foot to Mission San Xavier del Bac and, once there, to give thanks to God through one of the saints for a blessing received or to petition for a blessing desired.

For some, the walk is not enough. A few elect to give further evidence of their devotion and added meaning to their sacrifice by going the length of the nave or sometimes all the way from the gate at the atrium in front of the church - on their knees. Fewer still throw themselves flat before the high altar.

Many light votive candles in honor of a particular saint (more than three dozen are represented inside the church by images sculptured in the eighteenth century). Many more affix small metallic votive offerings (milagros), usually in the shapes of afflicted body parts, to the coverlet over the reclining statue of San Francisco lying on an altar in the west chapel.

The majority of these pilgrims are carrying out the terms of a vow (manda) made to God through the intermediary of a saint. Others make straightforward requests.

Notes left beneath burning votive candles in the mission's mortuary chapel during a typical month tell part of the story:

"As que me rínda el dinero St. Lazaro." (Make my money stretch, Saint Lazarus).

Or another in translation: Fairest sainted child Atocha [i.e., Christ who appeared as a child and aided the Christians at the time of the Moorish invasion of Atocha, Spain], we give you thanks for all the favors that we have received from you daily. Thank you, adored Child of Atocha, for having helped my little son J. ···· with his left hand and for his having come out of his two operations well and able to use his little hand Many thanks to you. Child of my heart. I promised to dress him like you and I fulfilled my promise for three months, and now I offer you his habit (a beautifully hand-sewn tunic and cape) in the name of my son J…From now on, you will be his advocate; so take of care him, protect him, and guide him on the right path now and forever. Thank you for your miracles and blessings, sainted Child of Atocha.
And in English, written on the back of a voided personal check: Dear God - I am in so much trouble with the law. Please help me be strong and give me thoughts to help me and my family and friends who are going through this. I'm begging you to please help. I don't want to go to prison. And I don't want to be scarred for life. God help me be out of this and let all this be over real soon.

With nearly equal anguish: Dear Sweet Jesus, Sacred Heart. Here I am asking you please to help me in my life, help me with my divorce. Please!

Don't let me hurt anybody! Help me make a better future for me and my kids. I promise to try very hard. Please be with me all the way. Please help my husband not to hurt so much. Help him, please.

Forgive me my sins. Have mercy on me.

Thank you for every blessing you have given us. Please be with me. Give me strength.

I love you.

And most poignant of all: St. Anthony. Please give my baby back. Please.

Pilgrimage. An act of faith, an expression of deeply held religious convictions. And famous, beautiful Mission San Xavier del Bac is the goal. It is a holy place in which to receive affirmation of one's innermost sentiments, whether of penance, thanksgiving, or petition - a place that provides beauty to the eye and sustenance for the soul.

Dr. Bernard L. Fontana
Pilgrimage to San Xavier
Arizona Highways
November 1986

To View and Download
"Pilgrimage to San Xavier"
For the article's original format, the entire Novermber 1986 issue of Arizona Highways Magazine must first be accessed on the Arizona Memory Project's  page for that issue.

Then click on the pdf icon on the issue page that is to the right of the Novermber 1986 issue front page image. The front page image is on the left side on the page. The article is at the back on pages 44 - 48.

Pilgrimage to Magdalena de Kino

For Magdalena de Kino Pilgrimage
Kino Pilgrimages
Click Camino de Kino

Kino's Vision

"But the greatness of new missions will shine not only in the eternity of heaven, but also in the most desolate and remote regions of the world. It will live on in the splendid construction of temples, churches, buildings and houses. It will reflect in the solemnities of the saints, in gay fiestas, and in the treats of religious banquets; it will be heard in music and the choirs of singers. It will be seen in the bountiful, spiritual and temporal wealth of opulent missions which, with reason, will be a source of pride."

Kino's Biography of Francisco Javier Saeta
Book 8 Chapter 6
By Eusebio Francisco Kino

Statuary Locator Diagrams

For instructions to download and print
The San Xavier Statuary Guide Brochure
click  Mission San Xavier Statuary 

To download and print each diagram
scroll down box and click link.

Front Facade Diagram

Top Row

1.   St Francis Xavier
2.   Jesus, Parable of the Vineyard
3.   IHS, Monogram of Jesus
4.   AMR, Monogram of Mary, "Ave Maria Regina " ("Hail Queen Mary")

Middle Row

5.   Mouse
6.   Heralding Lions
7.   Emblem of the Franciscans
8.   Cat
9.   St. Barbara
10. Scalloped Shell of Pilgrimage
11.  St. Cecilia

Ground Level Row

12.  St. Catherine of Alexandria
13.  St. Lucy of Syracuse

To view Front Facade Diagram with statue identifications in pdf format, click Front Facade

Sanctuary Diagram

Top Row

14. St. Lawrence of Rome             
15. God The Father
16. St. Stephen, First Martyr

Middle Row

17. St. Peter the Apostle
18. Mary, The Immaculate Conception
19. St. Paul, Apostle
20. Great Angels ( 37 in West Chapel and 57 in East Chapel)

Ground Level Row

21. St. Bartholomew, Apostle  (near northwest corner) ( 46 in West Chapel)
22. St. James the Greater, Aposlte  (47 in West Chapel)
23. St. Simon, Apostle
24. Heralding Lions
25. St. Francis Xavier
26. The Tabernacle
27. St. Andrew, Apostle
28. St. Matthias, Apostle (28 in East Chapel)
29. St. Ignatius Loyola  (58 in East Chapel)

To view Sanctuary Diagrram with statue identifications in pdf format, click Sanctuary

West Chapel Diagram

Top Row

30. St. Gertrude the Great
31. St. Teresa of Avila
32. St. Rita of Cascia 
32 A.  St Colette  (not numbered: statue above St. Dominic number 36)             

Middle Row

33. St. Peter Regalatus
34. St. Francis of Assisi
35. St. Peter of Alcantara
36. St. Dominic with his dog
37. Great Angel

Ground Level Row

38. St. John the Evangelist or St. Thomas, Apostles
39. St. Phillip, Apostle
40. St. Ildephonsus
41. San Cayetano (statue now at Tumacacori National Historical Park)
42. Jesus, Suffering Saviour
43. St. Francis Xavier: reclining                     
44. St.  Bonaventure
45. St. Joseph
46. St. Bartholomew, Apostle (21 in Sanctuary)
47. St. James the Greater, Apostle (22 in Sanctuary)

To view West Chapel Diagram with statue identifications in pdf format, click West Chapel

East Chapel Diagram

Top Row

48. St. Agnes of Prague                     
49. St. Elizabeth of Portugal 
50. St. Clare of Assisi
51. St. Elizabeth of Hungary

Middle Row

52. St. Benedict of Palermo
53. Blessed Bernadine of Feltre
54. The Crucifxion, Mary and St. John the Evangalist
55. St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen

Ground Level Row

56. St. Matthias,Apostle (28 in Sanctuary)
57. Great Angel
58. St. Ignatius (29 in Sanctuary)
58A. Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (not numbered: statue between 58 and 59)
59. Mary: The Immaculate Conception
60. St. Didacus of Alacala (San Diego)
61. Mary, Our Mother of Sorrows
62. St. Anthony of Padua
63. St. Jude Thadeus, Apostle (near pulpit)

To view East Chapel Diagram with statue identifications in pdf format, click East Chapel

Statue Locations Not in Diagrams

32A. St Colette: West Chapel above St. Dominic (36)
58A. Saint Kateri Tekakwitha: East Chapel between St. Ignatius of Loyola ( 58)
         and Blessed Virgin Mary: (59)
64.   St. Matthew the Apostle: Nave's west wall first statue north of entrance
65.   St. James the Lessor the Apostle: Nave's east wall first statue north of entrance


Numbered statues in diagrams start from top left and end at ground level right.

Duplicate numbered statues:
St. Bartholomew  (near Sanctuary's2 northwest corner: numbered 21 in Sanctuary diagram and 46 in West Chapel diagram)
St Ignatius Loyola (near Sanctuary's northeast corner: numbered 29 in Sanctuary diagram and 58 in East  Chapel diagram)
Great Angels (numbered 20,  left angel 37 and right angel 57)


Statuary Locator Diagrams by Edith Hamlin from "Mission San Xavier del Bac"    (San Francisco: 5 Associates, 1954)  Statue Identifications by Bernard L. Fontana from "A Gift of Angels: The Art of Mission San Xavier del Bac" (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 2010). Other publications "Mission San Xavier: A Story of Saint and Angels, Art and Artists" by Edna San Miguel (Tucson: Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, 2011) and "San Xavier : The Spirit Endures" by Kathleen Walker (Phoenix:  Arizona Highways Press, 1998)

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