San Xavier Mission

A National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797.
The oldest intact European structure in Arizona, the church’s interior is filled with marvelous original statuary and mural paintings. It is a place where visitors can truly step back in time and enter an authentic 18th Century space.
The church retains its original purpose of ministering to the religious needs of its parishioners.

The Mission is 9 miles south of downtown Tucson, Arizona just off of Interstate 19. Take exit 92 (San Xavier Road) and follow signs to the Mission.
There is no admission charge to visit Mission San Xavier. Some 200,000 visitors come each year from all over the world to view what is widely considered to be the finest example of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States.

The History:

The current church dates from the late 1700’s, when Southern Arizona was part of New Spain. In 1783, Franciscan missionary Fr. Juan Bautista Velderrain was able to begin construction on the present structure using money borrowed from a Sonoran rancher. He hired an architect, Ignacio Gaona, and a large workforce of O’odham to create the present church.
Following Mexican independence in 1821, San Xavier became part of Mexico. The last resident Franciscan of the 19th Century departed in 1837. With the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, the Mission joined the United States. In 1859 San Xavier became part of the Diocese of Santa Fe. In 1866 Tucson became an incipient diocese and regular services were held at the Mission once again. Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet opened a school at the Mission in 1872. Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity now teach at the school and reside in the convent.
The Franciscans returned to the Mission in 1913. Recently, Mission San Xavier became a separate nonprofit entity. It remains a testament to the endurance of culture thoughout our history.


1692 Father Kino visits the village of Wa:k
1700 Father Kino begins foundations on a church never built
1711 Father Kino dies in Magdalena, Sonora, Mexico
1756 Father Espinosa constructs the 1st church
1767 Jesuits are expelled from New Spain
1768 Spanish Franciscans take over the Mission
1783 Construction begins on the present church
1797 The Mission church is completed
1821 Spanish Franciscans leave
1846 Cooke’s Mormon battalion passes by the Mission
1854 Gadsden Purchase puts the Mission inside the United States
1859 Santa Fe diocese begins first repairs of the Mission
1887 Earthquake damages the Mission
1905 Bishop Granjon begins major repairs
1913 Franciscans return to the Mission
1939 Lightning strikes the West Tower
1953 Church facade is restored
1963 San Xavier becomes a National Historic Landmark
1978 Patronato San Xavier established to preserve the Mission
1989 Leaking walls force emergency restoration
1992 Conservators begin a 5-year rescue effort of the interior