Mission San Xavier is located in a desert setting outside the city of Tucson. As you approach it the white structure looms large like the Taj Mahal pictured below.
Mission San Xavier is the only mission in the nation still active preaching to the Tohono O'odham, a group of Native Americans who primarily reside in the Sonoran Desert .
Mission San Xavier is called the "White Dove of the Desert". The structure is an impressive example of Spanish mission architecture. The domes, carvings and arches distinguish it from other missions.
The mission was founded by Jesuit Father Eusebio Francisco King before 1700. The present structure was built 1783-97 by the Franciscans. The missionaries were forced to leave San Xavier in 1828 but the Franciscans returned in 1911 and since then have maintained San Xavier as a parish church and school of the Tohono O'odham. The mission was made a National Historic Landmark in 1963. The church is considered a wonderful example of Spanish Colonial architecture with baroque altars and original paintings that adorn the inside walls.
I found this story about the two lions fascinating.
At one point over 20 years these lions were stolen from the church. After new lion statues were made it took the church a long time to find an artist to complete the work.
Gabby Giffords's (the former congresswoman from AZ ) mother, Gloria Kay, a local artist, spent 6 years putting the finishing touches on these lion pieces. She donated her time to the church for her work. It was an unanswered question the significance of these lions placed at the foot of the altar. Little known fact Gabby Giffords was born in Tucson.
This structure outside of the church is called the Mortuary House. It is a place where the dead went before their burial. Today it is worship chapel with lots of candles for people to offer their prayers of intentions and thanks.
Desert vegetation is strikingly beautiful and unusual.
Frybread, a Navajo food, was available outside on the mission grounds. Frybread can be eaten alone or with various toppings such as honey, jam or a hot beef chili mixture. Frybread can also be made into tacos.
It's light, crispy, sprinkled with cinnamon, powered sugar and drizzled with honey. Wow was it good but NOT a healthy treat! Even though the calorie count is off the charts we enjoyed every bite :)