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Mission San Xavier del Bac is a historic Spanish Catholic mission located about 10 miles south of downtown Tucson, Arizona, on the Tohono O'odham San Xavier Indian Reservation. Named for a pioneering Christian missionary and co-founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuit Order), the Mission is also known as the "place where the water appears," as there were once natural springs in the area. The Santa Cruz River which now runs only part of the year is also nearby. The Mission is situated in the center of a centuries-old Indian settlement of the Tohono O'odham (formerly known as Papago), located along the banks of the Santa Cruz River.

The mission was founded in 1692 by the Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino, founder of the Spanish missions in the Sonoran Desert chain, who often visited and preached in the area. The original mission church, located about two miles away, was vulnerable to Apache attacks who finally destroyed it in about 1770. Charles III of Spain banned all Jesuits from Spanish lands in the Americas in 1767 because of his distrust of the Jesuits. From this time on, San Xavier mission was led by the more pliable and "reliable" Franciscans. The present building was constructed under the direction of Franciscan Fathers Juan Bautista Velderrain and Juan Bautista Llorenz mainly with native labor working from 1783-1797 with a loan of 7,000 pesos and serves the Catholics of the San Xavier District of Tohono O'odham Nation. Unlike the other Spanish missions in Arizona, San Xavier is still actively served by Franciscans, and still serves the Native community by which it was built. The San Xavier church and its Indian converts were protected somewhat from Apache raids by the Presidio San Agustin de Tucson, established in 1775 roughly 7 miles downstream.


 

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