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San Xavier del Bac Mission Tucson

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

The San Xavier del Back Mission was founded by Father Kino in 1692 with the Tohono O'odham Native Americans whom the Spanish had renamed the Pima Native Americans.


Father Kino was a Jesuit. In 1769 Spain's King Charles III was part of the "Enlightenment" movement and expelled the Jesuits from New Spain which included the San Xavier del Bac Mission. The Jesuits viewed the Native Americans as servants or inferiors...and felt the way to convert them to Catholicism and subjects of the King was through hard labor and farming chores teaching them European ways of completing tasks. King Charles III replaced the Jesuits with Franciscans who had a philosophy of living and working among the Native Americans – a new enlightened approach.


The existing San Xavier del Bac Mission dates to 1797 making it the oldest European structure in Arizona! The San Xavier del Bac Mission continues to be an active working mission today serving the church needs of the Tohono O'odham Nation. Everyone is welcome to attend the weekly scheduled masses. The building has been beautifully preserved and restored including the interior murals and art work! Over 200,000 visitors stop at San Xavier del Back Mission each year...there is no admission charge.


Father Kino founded a series of Missions throughout Arizona including at Tubac where the Tumacacori ruins still stand (beautifully preserved) and can be toured by visitors.


Did you know Tucson also had a mission located at the base of Sentinel Peak (also known today as A Mountain), called the Mission San Agustín del Tucson, founded in 1771 with the building of a chapel.


The Mission San Agustin del Tucson also served the Pima Native Americans which are today called the Tohono O'odham. The Tucson Presidio, founded in August 1775, sat on the east side of the Santa Cruz river with a nearby natural spring as the water source, while the mission sat at what the Native Americans called Shookson, which means at the foot of the black mountain...Sentinel Peak being a black colored mountain. The base of Sentinel Peak also had a natural spring and very fertile farmland along what at that time were marshy banks of the Santa Cruz River, which flowed above ground most of the year back then.


The Spanish built a Convento (large Mission Building) in 1797 for the Mission San Agustin del Tucson, and the mission was very active. In 1821 Mexican Independence occurred and in 1828 the Franciscans abandoned the Mission San Agustin del Tucson. It was dismantled and used to build other structures...what little remained in the early 1900s was disposed of in an nearby City of Tucson landfill. Nothing remains of the structure today.


Below is a current picture of the San Xavier del Bac Mission.

San Xavier del Bac Mission Tucson.  Did you know Tucson also had Mission San Agustin del Tucson.
San Xavier del Bac Mission Tucson


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