Mission San Xavier del Bac: Art and Faith

As a boy I looked upward towards the sumptuous ceiling of Immaculate Conception Church , my father’s parish church in the Italian American community of Trenton NJ. I was moved beyond belief , the incense became more aromatic , the songbook more inspiring, the gospel readings more personally encouraging.

Today upon entering the desert church of the Mission San Xavier in Tucson Arizona, I felt that familiar tingle of faith synchronized with art creating an exhilarating sensation. My Catholicism is intertwined with my art making and with my life . At times , foolishly, I’ve tried to distance myself from my faith , but the saints , they come a knocking and will not be ignored .

Inside this treasure of a church , my iPhone clicking away in the most secular vulgar fashion I looked about at the faithful reciting their rosary , the earnest supplication for divine intercession and the pinning of milagros upon the reliquary of the mission’s patron and I felt a sense of shame , of coarseness. Amidst such sincerity , my appreciation for the art clouded the balm my soul was being offered .

Silencing my phone , I sat upon the wooden pews and allowed the spirit of the place , one enriched by countless testaments of faith , to sink in .

The following images were taken before the intercession of spirit .


Below, the central altar .

La Dolorosa, circa 1750, east transept


Jesús Nazareno, west transept

I admire the rich and exuberant ornament surrounding this santo.

Elsewhere art abounds.

One of an angelic pair flanking the main altar.

The fonts shaped as shells I believe , notice the diapered wainscot.

How sweet is this angel ? One of many charmingly depicted.

As you can see below and in other images this is an active church , faith engaged daily , in this case festively for the celebration of our Savior’s birth .

The baptismal font curious and marvelous.


The choir loft equally enchanting.

As is so often the case , this mission’s dazzling interiors are enhanced by austere splendor of the exterior , the sunlit majesty of this mission is incredibly inspiring .

There was a side chapel , I don’t know it’s history , I’m , we’re , now reading histories of the place to be better acquainted for future visits , but we both were moved to tears by the power of the place . The passionate pleas laid bare in this modest sanctuary. No inkling present to document this sacred hallowed ground by pulling out my phone , so instead this side altar to my patron saint must suffice .

With that , I sign off.


Author: babylonbaroque

I am a painter and printmaker working towards creating a body of work that reflects my own developing aesthetic. New work ,first link. The second link is an on-line portfolio.

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