Mission San Xavier in Tucson, Arizona

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.

White Dove of the DesertFounded 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.

MissionAdmission 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/).

San Xavier PlazaTo 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.

ShrineNote 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.

Virgin ShrineAll 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 at San Xavier


About the Author

Julie Henning
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. Julie is the Oregon Coast destination specialist for Bindu Media, an itinerary-focused website launching in Spring 2016 and featuring the work of 200+ professional, indie travel writers. Julie has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal, The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois), the Rochester Post Bulletin, Wisconsin Natural Resources (DNR) Magazine, Sustainable Chicago Magazine, Group Tour Magazine, Student Group Tour Magazine, Silent Sports Magazine, Intercom Magazine, Roadtrippers.com, and FTF Geocacher Magazine. 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.