Located about ten miles south of modern day Tucson, Arizona is the Mission San Xavier. Built upon the ruins of the original mission, the building was constructed between the years 1783-1797 and it remains the oldest European structure in Arizona.
Founded during a time of Spain’s colonization of North America, the mission was named in honor of Francis Xavier, one of the co-founders of the Society of Jesus, a male religious congregation of the Catholic church known as the Jesuit Order (members are known as Jesuits). Today, the compound has earned the nickname the White Dove of the Desert.
Admission is free and you can take either a self-guided or docent-led tour through the main church and ancillary buildings located in the small campus. Note that mass and other religious ceremonies still take place at Mission San Xavier (consult this page for hours of operation and scheduled tour times: http://www.patronatosanxavier.org/visit/).
To learn more about the building and how the mission ministered to the needs of its parishioners, start your visit by watching the 20 minute film in the San Xavier Plaza. There’s a gift shop and cafe here, as well as modern restrooms. We visited during a time when local vendors set up food stalls under rustic wood awnings.
Note the effigy burial mound in the background. Visitors can make the short walk/climb to the path circling the hill and peer into the entrance; decorative shrines have been carved into the rock.
All in all, this is a nice opportunity to learn a bit of social studies and history without driving too far from Tucson. Leave about an hour for a visit (longer if you participate in a tour). Happy trails!
Julie Henning is a freelance writer and journalist based out of Eugene, Oregon. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and owner of the family-travel website RoadTripsForFamilies.com. She is a recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers.
In March 2018 Julie Henning published the book "100 Things to Do in Eugene Before You Die" (Reedy Press). She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers.
She has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal, Travel Wisconsin, Travel Oregon, Hometown News Group, The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois), the Rochester Post Bulletin, Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine (DNR publication), Experience Michigan Magazine, the Official Oregon Wine Touring Guide, Metro Parent Milwaukee Magazine, Eugene Cascades & Coast Official Visitors Guide, Trivago, Intercom Magazine, Roadtrippers.com, Amtrak.com, Eugene Magazine, and FTF Geocacher Magazine.
Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio. She has produced episodes for Journey of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. Julie has also produced travel apps with Sutro Media and Bindu Media. She works full time in marketing.
Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio and is an affiliate producer with the Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast.
She has blogged for TravelWisconsin.com, Travel Oregon, and VISIT Milwaukee.
Julie travels with her three kids and black lab as much as possible and lives by the motto, "Not all who wander are lost." Check out some of her best work at www.juliehenning.com.