THE MISSION OF SAN XAVIER DEL BAC AN HISTORICAL GUIDE
BY ESTELLE LUTRELL, Librarian, University of Arizona With Map and Twenty Reproductions From Photographs
COPYRIGHT APPLIED FOR 1922 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The Mission of San Xavier del Bac, situated on an elevation frontier the Sierrieta Mountains to the south, is a conspicuous monument which may be seen distinctly, not only from Tucson, nine miles distant, but from all directions in the Valley of the Santa Cruz. Father Kino,i a Jesuit priest, who first visited Bac in 1692, laid the foundations of a mission church there in 1700.
The Jesuits, by royal order, were expelled in 1767, and their missions taken over by the Franciscans in 1768. How much of this present structure belongs to the period of Jesuit occupation is a matter of conjecture. The retention of the name San Xavier, one of the founders of the Jesuit Order, is regarded by some to indicate that sufficient progress had been made in the plans and in the execution of them to make the church their work.
The exact date of its erection, however, seems not to be a matter of record. The date of 1797 to be seen on the door of the Sacristy is generally regarded as the date of completion.
ESSENTIALLY MISSION STYLE
The building, which is of burned brick, fronts south and is 67 by 105 feet with two towers and a dome. It is of mission architecture, that is, the architecture of the Spanish Renaissance, modified by native influences. The Byzantine and Moorish ele- ments not only show the changes common to the cathedrals of Mexico, but also in decoration suggest the barbaric touch of the Aztec.
It departs from the designs made familiar by the Fran- ciscan missions of California, built some sixty years later. These points of difference as affecting the construction are, the cuniform plan; high arches; central dome; and two bell towers, each surmounted by a small dome. Perhaps no mission of the Southwest more completely embodies all the elements which enjer into the new architectural form called the Mission Style, than does San Xavier. Its architecture is thus described by Mr. Duell : "San Xavier is for the most part of Byzantine influence, especially as to its cruciform plan, general construction and most of its interior decorations. Its stilted arches, domes, and fan- tastic windows, are, however, Moorish. In fact, the lower half of the interior with its many statuettes, frescoes, and glitter of gold is Byzantine, while the upper part, with its arches, windows and domes impresses one as Moorish.
The distinctive towers and belfries were developed in Mexico and most of the accented yet restrained decoration has a touch of the Aztec."
The Fachada is a fine example of the Spanish Renaissance, com- paring favorably with many similar compositions in Spain. Over the doors of mesquite wood which form the entrance is a rich ornamentation of arabesques in low relief, dullish red in color preserving the original tints as does the whole fachada. On each side of the entrance are two fanciful columns of Moorish design, and beyond the outer columns, the crozier, conventionalized into an architectural ornament. Between the columns are four figures in niches without in- scriptions.
The first above and to the left, attired in crown and royal robe, is the statue of Saint Elizabeth, prominently identified with the Third Order« of the Franciscans. The figure below, though nearly effaced, is judged, from its black robe, to be that of a Jesuit priest. To the right the upper figure with the tambourine is St. Cecilia. The one in the niche below is blackened and almost a mass of candle grease. The Indians still burn candles in the niche, saying that the saint cures their sore eyes. Because of this practice which has continued for many years it is thought that the image was likely that of St. Lucy. Above the doors of the balcony which is over the entrance is placed the coat of arms of the order of St. Francis of Assisi.
It consists of an escutcheon with a white ground on which are displayed a twisted cord, a part of the Franciscan dress; and a cross on which are nailed one arm of the Savior and one of St. Francis. The arm of Jesus is bare, while that of St. Francis is covered. To the right of the escutcheon is the monogram of Door of main entrance.
IMPORTANT DATES IN THE HISTORY OF SAN XAVIER INFORMATION FROM FATHER KINO's OWN RECORDS
The Records were discovered by Professor H. E. Bolton, in the City of Mexico, about twelve years ago and published in 1919. 1692 Father Kino records in detail in his Journal that he visited Bac^s for the first time in this year. Bac was a village of the Sobaipuri Pimas. It was at this time that Kino gave it the name of San Xavier.
1694 - Kino again passed through Bac on his way to and from Casa Grande^^ of which he gives the first known description. The old confess:onal chair removed from the curtained booth. Above this, a fresco of Our Lady of the Pillar.
1695 - Father Kino went all the way to Mexico City lo obtain new missionaries to enable him to found new missions toward the north of Dolores. 1697 Father Kino established a stock ranch at Bac, January 1697, for the support of the projected Mission. In November of the same year Kino passed through Bac and counted in its neighborhood more than 6000 Indians. He mentioned that an oven which he had ordered had been installed there.
1699 - Father Kino, accompanied by Gonzalvo, again visited Bac. He mentions the existence of an earth roofed adobe house, evidently for the use of visiting missionaries; also, of extensive progress in irrigation, *' Sufficient for another city like Mexico." He speaks of 1000 souls over whom Gonzalvo afterwards became resident missionary.
1700 - Father Kino held at Bac a council of Indians to determine whether California was an island or a peninsula, and while there laid the cornerstone of the Mission. He reports that he found there 3000 souls. In the summer of 1700 Kino sent 700 cattle from Dolores to re-stock the ranch at Bac. Corrals were built for them. His statement is as follows : "On the 28th we began the foundations of a very large and capacious church of San Xavier del Bac, all the many people working with much pleasure and zeal, some in digging for the foundations, others in hauling many and very good stones of tesontle from a little hill which was about a quarter of a league away. For the mortar for these foundations it was not necessary to haul water, because by means of the irrigation ditches we very easily conducted the water where we wished. And that house, with its great court and garden near by, will be able to have throughout the year all the water it may need, running to any place or work-room one may please, and one of the greatest and best fields in all Nueva Biscaya."
1701 - "This year the Father Provincial sent us four new Fathers for this Pimeria" . . . They found the many docile people and cattle, crops and harvests and the beginnings of houses and churches, which his Reverence had seen with his eyes, and they remained very well content, with great hopes of establishing there in the interior some very flourishing missions, as they said and wrote to me and to other persons on different occasions." Father Kino asked to be made missionary of Bac, but his services were required at Do- lores. Father Gonzalvo put in charge of the Mission. Con- struction of Mission buildings continued.
1702 - Father Kino visits the Mission for the last time. Under this date he speaks of work "on the very large church of San Xavier del Bac."
1703 - The church was still unfinished and at this time there was no resident missionary (v. 2, p. 35). Apparently there was no resident missionary for some twenty years subsequent to this date.
INFORMATION FROM OTHER SOURCES
1721 - Church registers^^ show that Father Joseph Torres Perea was in charge. It is not certain whether he was a resident or visiting missionary.
1732 - By this time regular missionary work was renewed at Bac, and was continuous thereafter. Father Segesser was sent to Bac and Grashofer to Guevavi.\
1751 - The Pimas revolted and the Mission was plundered, ac- cording to the statement of Father Paver in the church register. Father Paver and the missionary of Guevavi escaped to Sonora, but Father Tello was killed at Caborca and Father Ruen at Sonoita.
1752 - To protect the frontier missions the Presidio of Tubac was founded.
1754 - The Indians return, and are in charge of Father Paver.
1767 - The Jesuits were expelled from Spain and its possessions. The missions in this vicinity were abandoned by the Jesuits. St. Ignatius Loyola, Founder of the Jesuit Order.
1768 - The Franciscans were ordered to take over the abandoned missions. Francisco Garces was sent to San Xavier. Ac- corddng to Arricivita the mission buildings were destroyed in this year by the Apaches.
1772 - Father Reyes in describing San Xavier under this date says: "The church is fairly large". From this it is inferred that the present large church had not been built. He continues with the following description: "[and] adorned on the sides with two paintings in gilt frames. The sacristy has four chalices, two not usable, monstrance, censer, plate and cruets with a conch all of silver, four ornaments of various colors, with other decorations for the altar for divine worship, all very poor." Writing of the Indian village of Tucson at this time, Reyes states : "The pueblo de visita San Jose del Tucson is situated six leagues to the north of San Javier. It has no church nor house for the missionary. On account of the fertility of the soil, there are united and congregated in the form of a town, a growing number of Indians, Christian and heathen. It has not been possible to make a census, but the opinion is that there are more than two hundred heads of families. (Documentos para la historia de Mexico.)
1779 - San Xavier was included in ihe new diocese of Sonora, of which Father Reyes was the first Bishop.
1797 - Conjectural date of the completion of the present mission building. See date on door of sacristy. 1813 The Spanish Cortes passed a decree depriving the mission- aries of all control of their missions.
1821 - Mexico declared herself a republic. The Spanish Govern- ment withdraws financial aid from all the Spanish missions.
1826 - In the general Mexican attack against the Spanish, the Fathers were all driven out. San Xavier remained for some years without a priest. The two figures of life size represent two of the archangels.
1852 - Visited by the United States and Mexican Boundary party.
1854 - The year of the "Gadsden Purchase'*. The Territory of Arizona is formed, and the Mission is within the boundaries of the United States.
1859 - Arizona put in the diocese of New Mexico. San Xavier visited at this time by Father Machebeuf, who later became the first Bishop of Denver. He made extensive repairs on the building. - .. ? : ,
1866 - A gdvernment school for the Papagoes at San Xavier was proposed by the Indian agent as mentioned in the Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs of this year. It seems that the plan was not carried out but that a teacher sent by the Bishop conducted a school for a few months.
1873 - The Indian Agent for the Papago Indians reported as fol- lows : "I have received $2,500 to be devoted to educational purposes, and with this sum I have erected a school-house. The building is over 100 feet long, surrounded by a good wall, and is conveniently divided into rooms for the accommodation of classes and teachers. I have engaged two Sisters from St. Joseph's Academy to teach the school."
1876 By order of the Department of Indian Affairs, the Papago Agency was consolidated with that of the Pimas on the 1st of April, 1876. At that time, government support was withdrawn from the school at San Xavier.
1906 - Restoration of the building under the supervision of Bishop Granjon.
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1908 - The "Grotto of Lourdes" is erected on the small hill near the Mission.
Pather Kino (Chino) was born an Italian; became a Jesuit in Austria; came to Mexico in May, 1681. He was a missionary in Lower California, 1683-1685; came to Sonora in 1687, and established headquarters at Mission Dolores, foundmg numerous missions in northern Sonora. San Xavier Mission is the northernmost of a chain of Jesuit missions founded in the Door of the Sacristy. The date 1797 and name Pedro Boj(orque)s carved on the sacristal door, conjectured as the name of the builder and date of the completion of the building.
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