San Xavier del Bac Mission - Art

The mission church at San Xavier del Bac was completed around the time that the Spanish Empire in North America weakened. Construction began in 1783 under the supervision of Father Juan Bautista Velderrain, a Franciscan. A loan of 7,000 pesos provided the funds to build the mission. In 1821, Mexico became a Republic after a lengthy revolution, and the new government demanded allegiance from the Franciscan priests. In 1828, San Xavier del Bac’s resident priest, Father Rafael Diaz, refused to align himself with what he believed was an anticlerical regime and left his church. Unlike many other historic Spanish missions from the era, the architecture of the church at San Xavier del Bac Mission is entirely European. It has no Piman influence on its Baroque style, a mix of Byzantine and Moorish architecture, aside from the desert materials used and the interior imagery. The main building is in the shape of a Latin cross. Two octagonal towers topped with belfries stand at the front of the building. One large dome covers the transept crossing, and smaller domes flank it to the north and south. The mission property includes the main church, mortuary chapel, dormitory, patio, garden, and convent. Built by O’odham laborers, the main building is composed of adobe bricks set in lime mortar. The exterior walls are painted white stucco. The interior is decorated with intricately painted and carved religious imagery, which covers the walls and vaulted ceilings. Wooden statues of Saint Xavier and the Virgin are set into a molded background behind the altar, and throughout the church there are carved wooden statues of Native Americans and other saints. Frescoes depicting the lives of Catholic saints decorate the choir loft and main chamber. Please enjoy my photographic tour of San Xavier del Bac Mission, Arizona

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