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The Haunted San Xavier Mission in Tucson, Arizona

A haunted location: San Xavier Mission in Tucson, Arizona.

Details: It is said that on the outside of the mission, there’s artwork on either side of the main doors.

There is a snake on one side and a mouse on the other side.

If the snake catches the mouse, the end of time is near.

Several people in the area have heard whispers of this story come from a shadowy figure of a man, outside the church.

He has been seen pointing to each sector as the story is told.

Photo of author

Written by: Gwenyth Poler

Published on: October 15, 2021

san xavier mission haunted

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Table of Contents

Do You Know The Haunted History Of The San Xavier Mission?

It has been rumoured that the San Xavier Mission in Tucson, Arizona is a haunted location. We’ll explain why people think this below. Do you think the rumors are true?

Why Is The San Xavier Mission Haunted?

It is said that on the outside of the mission, there’s artwork on either side of the main doors.

Also, there have been sightings of an old Padre wandering throughout the church.

He is usually seen at dusk or dawn, the time when candles need to be lit or extinguished.

Also, a specter of a nun is seen leading five children to the chapel from an old building, that was once used as a schoolhouse.

The schoolhouse burnt to the ground, killing all inside.

It is believed the nun was trying to get the children to safety.

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What do you think about the haunted history of San Xavier Mission in Tucson, Arizona?

Do you believe it’s true?

We’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

DISCLAIMER: We don’t advocate that anyone goes here, this post is for informational purposes only.

Gwenyth Poler

Meet Gwenyth Poler, a content creator at Scary HQ, a haunted places blog that delves into the eerie and unexplained. Gwen is a true crime enthusiast and an avid lover of all things spooky. In her free time, she can be found exploring abandoned buildings and investigating local ghost stories. But don't let her interest in the macabre fool you, Gwen is the epitome of a wholesome individual with a kind heart and a contagious passion for her work. When she's not scouring the internet for her next true crime case to research or haunted location to visit, she can be found curled up with a horror novel or watching her favorite scary movies. Gwen's love for the eerie and unknown is matched only by her love for her audience, and she pours her heart and soul into every post on Scary HQ. Join Gwen on her journey as she uncovers the secrets of the haunted world around us.

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San Xavier del Bac Mission

san xavier mission haunted

Rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of a nun and children who are alleged to have died in a schoolhouse fire.

If you've had a paranormal experience here, or have any additional information about this location, please let us know!

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Geographic Information

Please note: It is your responsibility to acquire appropriate permissions before investigating any location listed on this site. Private property should be respected at all times, as should all posted signs concerning trespassing, hours of operation and other local regulations. Many "ghost hunters" have been arrested because they failed to contact property owners and/or local authorities ahead of time.

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Comments (7).

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I’ve never been inside but one night a few weeks prior to me moving to Corpus Christi, Texas I went out there with a friend nobody was there but us & the moonlight, it was a chilly night but I felt this eerie feeling like someone was was watching us from the entrance gate of the mission I don’t how else to explain it but eerie

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Went up the mountain that is on the side of the church. We went to where the virgin Mary was seen, as we walked away , we heard a growl. We decided to walk around the mountain because we’ve never been that way… i heard a voice whisper “mommy”. As we got close to heading down the mountain, my son says “did you hear that whisper? It growled” Most definitely a place of paranormal dwellers there. Inside the church, there is a heavy feeling, i got light headed.

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I also had a heavy, sort of tingly feeling inside the sanctuary proper, basically the main part of the church. I also felt somewhat light headed. My body started to vibrate, and it felt as if the air pressure were higher, but the feeling went away when I went outside the main building.

I was with someone and their camera worked fine, however my camera refused to work even though it had been working fine before we got there and worked just great after we left. It’s a digital Nikon, not a smartphone camera. The lens kept retracting before I could take a picture.

I am not a professional investigator nor am I religious, and I don’t generally have experiences like this otherwise.

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I visited the Mission several years ago with a cousin of mine and a friend. I was drawn to an old staircase that was closed off to the public with a metal gate. I saw a cloaked figure of a man in what looked like a monk’s outfit complete with a hood. The feeling I got was intense negativity and at the same time a kind of compelling feeling to come closer. I tried the gate but was unable to get it open. Suddenly, my friend came up behind me and yanked me away saying to snap out of it this area is bad and we left. I don’t know who or what that entity is but it’s not safe or good. Thank you for this forum, Christine

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OMG! I’m going on Tues. with a group… you would think in a church it would be peaceful feeling, etc. not negativity… I’ve been there a few times many years ago & never felt negativity. I’ll keep a look out when I get there….

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My cousin and I came to the Church at night to take some pictures, while we we’re approaching I saw a white figuree walking and when I looked behind my cousin to see it , it wasn’t there. We continued to walk and heard a candle clink near the entrance. We walked onto the little hill and around and when we left heard light faint whistling coming from the church doors. The next time we went at night with another friend and everything was fine until we got up the little hill. We went left to the Virgin Mary and my friend and us both agreed the energy was crazy. We walked around the mountain and sat at the next bench looking out to the city, it was quiet until we heard a voice of man. It sounded like mumbling then full words as it got closer , he kept yelling out “help” and “please help me” we couldn’t tell if he was on the mountain or not but without hesitation we left immediately. (Rip fryd bar)

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I don’t really think it was a man !!!!!

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Disclaimer: The stories posted here are user-submitted and are, in the nature of "ghost stories," largely unverifiable. HauntedPlaces.org makes no claims that any of the statements posted here are factually accurate. The vast majority of information provided on this web site is anecdotal, and as such, should be viewed in the same light as local folklore and urban legends.

san xavier mission haunted

BestAttractions

Unraveling the Mysteries of Mission San Xavier del Bac in Tucson, AZ

Unraveling the threads of history.

Situated approximately 10 miles south of the bustling downtown of Tucson, Arizona , the Mission San Xavier del Bac is a histo ric Spanish Catholic mission that has stood the test of time.

Nestled within the boundaries of the Tohono O’odham Nation San Xavier Indian Reservation, this mission is more than just a religious institution. It is a symbol of resilience, a testament to the enduring spirit of the community, and a beacon of cultural heritage.

The mission’s origins can be traced back to the late 17th century. In 1692, it was founded by Padre Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit missionary known for extensive work in the Pimería Alta, present-day northern Sonora in Mexico, and southern Arizona in the United States.

The mission was christened in honor of Francis Xavier, a pioneering Christian missionary and a co-founder of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuit Order, in Europe.

The original church that served the mission was not the current structure. It was located north of the present Franciscan church and served the mission until 1770. However, it fell victim to an Apache raid, a stark reminder of the tumultuous times that marked the era of its establishment.

The Birth of the Current Structure

The Mission San Xavier del Bac that graces the landscape today is a product of unwavering determination and remarkable craftsmanship. Constructed between 1783 and 1797, it holds the distinction of being the oldest European structure in Arizona.

The labor for the construction was provided by the local community, a testament to the collective spirit that has always been a part of the mission’s history.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

The mission’s construction was a monumental task, given the limited resources and technology of the time. Yet, armed with their unwavering faith and determination, the builders left no stone unturned to ensure the mission’s completion.

The result was a structure that has withstood the ravages of time and continues to inspire awe and reverence.

A Testament to Architectural Grandeur

The mission’s architectural style is a harmonious blend of Spanish and indigenous influences, a tangible manifestation of the cultural exchange that marked the era of its construction. The mission is a U.S. National Historic Landmark, recognizing its architectural and historical significance.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

The mission’s intricate carvings, ornate frescoes, iconic domes, and towers are a sight. Each architectural element tells a story, each carving a testament to the skill and artistry of its creators.

The mission’s architecture is not just about aesthetics; it’s a narrative of cultural exchange, adaptation, and resilience.

The Mission San Xavier del Bac in Contemporary Times

Today, the mission serves as a parish church and plays a vital role in the local community and the Tohono O’odham Nation.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

It is a historical monument and a living testament to the people’s faith and community spirit. The mission’s cultural and historical significance continues to inspire and educate visitors, making it a cherished landmark.

The mission is a hub of religious and cultural activities. It hosts regular mass services, weddings, and other religious ceremonies. It also serves as a venue for cultural events and educational programs, ensuring the mission remains vibrant and integral to the community.

The Journey of Preservation

Preserving a structure as old and significant as the Mission San Xavier del Bac is monumental. Over the years, various renovation efforts have been undertaken to protect the mission.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

These efforts have involved meticulous planning, expert craftsmanship, and a deep understanding of the mission’s historical and architectural significance.

While challenging, these renovation efforts have maintained the mission’s original charm while ensuring its stability and longevity. The impact of these efforts is evident in the mission’s well-preserved facade and interiors, allowing future generations to appreciate this historical gem.

In Conclusion

Mission San Xavier del Bac’s enduring legacy is a testament to Tucson, Arizona’s rich history and cultural heritage. As the oldest European structure in Arizona , the mission stands as a symbol of resilience, faith, and community spirit.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

The ongoing efforts to preserve and restore the mission ensure that this historical, cultural, and religious landmark continues to inspire and educate future generations.

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Legends of America

Legends of America

Traveling through american history, destinations & legends since 2003., san xavier del bac mission, arizona.

San Xavier del Bac Mission, Tuscon, Arizona by Carol Highsmith

San Xavier del Bac Mission, Tucson, Arizona by Carol Highsmith.

A National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission in Arizona was founded as a Spanish Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino , a Jesuit Explorer, in 1692. The mission was established in the center of a centuries-old Indian settlement of the Sobaipuri O’odham Indians located along the banks of the Santa Cruz River.

As Spanish colonists moved northward from Mexico into present-day Arizona, claiming more land for New Spain, Jesuit priests founded a chain of missions along the Sonoran Mountain range.

The mission’s founder, Father Eusebio Kino, was a leader of the mission system in New Spain and worked to spread Christianity. He was an explorer and a cartographer as well as a Jesuit missionary. He hoped to take up residency at San Xavier del Bac Mission but died when he was the resident priest at Mission Dolores in Magdalena, Sonora, Mexico, in 1711.

Papago Indian Woman by Edward S. Curtis, 1907

Papago Indian Woman by Edward S. Curtis, 1907

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Catholic missions were an integral part of Spanish colonization. Missions, usually run by Jesuit or Franciscan friars, created European settlements that allowed colonization to expand the boundaries of Spanish culture and influence. The missions intended to Christianize and Hispanicize Native Americans. At San Xavier del Bac, Jesuits first introduced the Tohono O’odham, a Piman-speaking group also known as the Papago , to domesticated horses and cattle. The Spanish also brought European crops, like wheat. Missionaries transformed the lives of semi-nomadic Native Americans with animal husbandry and permanent, rather than seasonal, settlement. The settlement of San Xavier del Bac near the Santa Cruz River was a Tohono O’odham town called Wa:k, a Piman word for water.

Construction on the mission that still stands began in 1783 under the residency of Father Juan Bautista Velderrain. A loan of 7,000 pesos provided the funds to build the church. He hired an architect, Ignacio Gaona, and a large workforce of O’odham to create the present church. It would take years to complete and it wasn’t until 1797 that the Franciscans finished the job. This was about the same time that the Spanish Empire in North America began to wane.

Franciscan Priests

Franciscan Priests

In 1821, Mexico became a Republic after 11 years of 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 the church. He was the last priest to reside at San Xavier del Bac for the next 36 years.

The mid-1800s was an unstable period for San Xavier del Bac. In 1853, the Gadsden Purchase land treaty between the United States and New Mexico made the mission a U.S. possession. In 1859, the Catholic Church placed the church under the jurisdiction of the Santa Fe diocese. The diocese, under Bishop Lamy, repaired the church’s exposed adobe brick, and in 1864, Jesuit Father Carolus Evasius Messea resided there for eight months. During Father Messea’s time at San Xavier del Bac, he founded the first public school in Arizona, but the local Pima community lacked interest in the church and limited funding forced the parish to close. In 1866 Tucson became an incipient diocese, and regular services were held at the Mission once again. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet opened a school at the Mission in 1872. Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity now teach at the school and reside in the convent. In 1874, the U.S. government established the San Xavier Reservation.

San Xavier del Bac Mission, Tucson, Arizona

San Xavier del Bac Mission, Tucson, Arizona

At the beginning of the 20th century, Bishop Henry Granjon ordered renovations and new construction on the church. He oversaw repairs to the church façade and mortuary wall, which were damaged by an earthquake in 1887. Granjon had the entire church replastered and repainted. He also built a wall along the front of the convent and placed an arch at its east end. Grotto Hill, 300 feet east of the church, is a small hillock topped by a white cross. A replica of the Grotto of Lourdes is on the north side of the hill. Bishop Granjon oversaw the construction of this shrine to the Virgin Mary in 1908.

The Franciscans returned to the Mission in 1913, and the church received its first priest since Father Messea in 1913, a Franciscan and native of Tucson named Father Ferdinand Oritz. Since the arrival of Father Oritz, California Franciscans have run the church and served the San Xavier Reservation. In 1947, they founded a school for local Pima children. In 1949, they installed new floors within the church, repaired the roof and walls, and improved living conditions within the convent.

Unlike many other historic Spanish missions from the era, the architecture of the current 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 and aspects of 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.

San Xavier del Bac Sanctuary by Carol Highsmith

San Xavier del Bac Sanctuary by Carol Highsmith

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, covering 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 saints. Frescoes depicting the lives of Catholic saints decorate the choir loft and main chamber. The mission is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona.

The beautiful Spanish mission was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960. The church continues to serve the residents of the San Xavier Reservation. The church is open to visitors daily, except during special services, and the public is welcome to join the San Xavier community for regular masses.

San Xavier del Bac Mission is located at 1950 W. San Xavier Road, on the Tohono O’odham Nation San Xavier Indian Reservation, nine miles south of downtown Tucson, Arizona, just off of Interstate 19.

It is open daily from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm, except when weddings, funerals, or other special church functions are held. The church gift shop is open 8:00 am to 5:00 pm daily, and the museum is open 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. There is no admission charge.

For more information, visit the  San Xavier del Bac Mission  website or call 520-294-2624.

©Kathy Alexander / Legends of America , updated February 2022.

San Xavier Del Bac, AZ -Chapel by Kathy Alexander.

San Xavier Del Bac, AZ Chapel by Kathy Alexander.

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Where Creativity Takes Wing

san xavier mission haunted

Follow up to my article on The Haunted Mission

In autumn of 2017 my mother visited my home in Tucson.  One of the things we did together was visit the San Xavier mission, which is the oldest in the US and is called “The White Dove of the Desert.”  During that time I had some pretty strange things happen to me, as detailed in this article from July of last year.

The Haunted Mission

I hadn’t thought much about it till everything changed during this Covid-19 pandemic, when I started catching up on things that I hadn’t had a chance to see or do in normal life.  Among those backlogged items was finally watching a couple of episodes of The Dead Files that a friend of mine appeared in.  He’s a local historian and they used him as part of some of their investigations.  One in particular had bearing on my story, it’s an episode that first aired only five months ago.

The Dead Files Season 11 Episode 5: Desert Curse Sahuarita, Arizona

Several things come up in that episode but in case you don’t want to watch the whole thing, a dangerous entity is discovered that is a dead man, claiming to be a priest, who has the goal of tormenting the living and also dragging spirits to his church where he torments them and keeps them trapped there.  They go into some detail on this during the episode.

Sahuarita, Arizona happens to be very close to the San Xavier mission.  I couldn’t possibly have seen this episode before my visit or even before I made the last blog entry, yet there are aspects of my experience that really line up with what is said about this demonic priest-spirit.

Food for thought.

So if anyone is interested in investigating paranormal phenomena, this is a good spot – I’d love to see the results from more sensitive instrumentation than I have.   There might be an interesting magnetic anomaly in the area, or something else.  Who knows?  Unfortunately I don’t really have the tools to make any kind of conclusive determination.

San Xavier

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Living Las Vegas

Real Life in the Shadow of the Strip

san xavier mission haunted

Ghosts And Art At Mission San Xavier

san xavier mission haunted

Las Vegas lies squarely within the heart of what was once known as New Spain, but unfortunately the Spanish never constructed a mission here. None the less, the Spanish Missions which span across the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and up the coast of California are still a part of our collective heritage of the southwest. The Mission San Xavier del Bac outside of Tucson, Arizona is one of the oldest intact missions, and is the oldest European building in Arizona. With a lot of history comes many stories, and is it any shock that such an old church would possibly have a few ghosts still roaming about?

Mission San Xavier was originally constructed in the year 1700 about two miles away from where the current mission stands. That building was burned down during an Apache raid in 1770; in 1783 reconstruction of the mission began at its current site because the higher ground offered better protection against flooding. You may be surprised to find that the mission does have a further connection to Las Vegas.

The first European to set foot in Nevada was Francisco Garcés, a Franciscan friar from Spain. Garcés was first assigned to Mission San Xavier in 1768 and began exploring westward from there. He first crossed the Colorado River near present day Needles, California and then north through the Mojave Desert. It is believed he entered Nevada sometime in 1775 or 1776. Today, Garces Avenue in North Las Vegas is named after him as well as a memorial plaque in Lorenzi Park near the Springs Preserve.

As to the ghosts, San Xavier has a few. Around dawn and dusk a white haired padre has been seen around the church grounds. Another story is a bit more macabre; in 1949 a schoolhouse that was next to the mission caught fire and burned to the ground, killing everyone inside. Witnesses said they saw a nun that no one recognized inside trying to get the trapped children to safety. To this day a nun with a limp is sometimes seen leading a group of five Pima children from where the school used to stand towards the church.

One of the most memorable features of the mission’s exterior is the uncompleted tower. No one knows for sure why it was never finished, the usual mundane explanation being that the monks ran out of money, but another is that one of the more prominent native workers fell to his death during construction in the 1780s and no one else could be persuaded to go up the tower. Some visitors report feeling as if someone were watching them from the unfinished tower as well.

Something strange did occur during the walkthrough of the mission grounds. I filmed the walk from the mission doors into the mortuarium located a stone’s through away. Oddly, the film cuts off when the camera approaches the doorway leading into the small building. The file shows the correct length of the video, but only first few seconds are able to play. This had never happened before or after with that camera. While this could just be a technical difficulty, it is one that only affected this one video, and I have shot a lot of videos on the same camera.

san xavier mission haunted

The mortuarium at San Xavier dates to 1906; these buildings are very similar to chapels and are not uncommon at older Catholic churches. As the name implies, mortuariums were used to both store the bodies of the deceased awaiting burial as well as for viewings and wakes.

Besides the history and paranormal tales of the Mission San Xavier, this article would be remiss if it did not mention the stunning artwork that fills nearly every square inch of the interior of the church. As you step through the front doors you are instantly transported to the Old World; the centuries-old frescoes and sculptures are absolutely beautiful and the massive altarpiece extends two floors and is filled with detail. It is difficult to do anything but stand in awe of this sacred place, regardless of one’s religious views or absence thereof.

Mission San Xavier is located at 1950 W San Xavier Rd., Tucson, AZ 85746. The doors are open Monday through Saturday for free self-guided tours; just be respectful if you arrive during religious services as it is still an active Catholic Church. For more information visit sanxaviermission.org and visit roadtripamerica.com for help planning your trip!

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The Geographical Cure

Guide To San Xavier del Bac Mission In Tucson Arizona

San Xavier del Bac is a beautiful mission church just south of Tucson in the Sonoran desert. It’s a National Historic Landmark known as the “White Dove of the Desert.”

Posing akin to a European artifact, San Xavier is a mission masterpiece. It’s a historic Franciscan mission church set in quiet splendor on an Indian reservation. San Xavier has been an architectural landmark and spiritual center for the Papago Indians since 1797.

San Xavier del Bac mission near Tucson, without scaffolding

The partly restored mission is the finest example of Spanish Colonial and Mexican Baroque architecture in the United States. It’s simply not something you’d expect to see in this country. Inside, it boasts colorful frescos, sculptures, an elaborate retable (a devotional panel), and chapels.

Your first view of the church is startling. Driving south on I-19 from Tucson, you enter the San Xavier Indian reservation. The mission is a gleaming white monolith in a tan landscape.

It’s unnaturally white, contrasting sharply with the desert palette of pinks, beiges, and greens. The twin towered church with a massive carved entrance portal stands alone on the plain.

san xavier mission haunted

History of San Xavier

The mission was originally built in the 1730s or 1740s. It was founded in 1692 by Eusebio Francisco Kino, a legendary Jesuit figure.

He laid the first foundation stone and named the mission after St. Francis Xavier . a modern missionary. Kino’s vision was to spread Christianity to the local Tohono Oʼodham people. 

Missions were an important part of Spanish colonization efforts. The Spanish sought to convert the semi nomadic Native Americans into a permanent European-style settlement.

San Xavier del Bac Mission

The present church, however, dates from the end of the 18th century and was built by the Franciscan Order. This makes it the oldest intact European structure in Arizona.

The Franciscan Order is based on the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi. He was Francis was an ascetic monk who dressed in rags.

He dedicated his life to poverty, humility, simplicity, and anti-materialism. Francis  espoused a philosophy in which the Earth and all living creatures were respected as God’s creation, not viewed as inherently sinful.

READ : Guide To The Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi In Italy

facade of San Xavier del Bac

An unknown architect planned a cruciform Baroque church with two towers and a central dome. It was slightly old fashioned for the time in Spain, but still current throughout Mexico.

Facade Of San Xavier

The main building of the domed church is composed of adobe bricks. They were set in lime mortar plastered over with white stucco. 

The facade is flanked by terraced towers. But they’re asymmetrical. The east tower is missing a dome and lantern.

Why is the right tower unfinished? There are myriad legends.

fountain at San Xavier

Most poetically, the two towers are said to reflect the teaching that the gospel is a duty without end.

According to another story, the church’s architect fell to his death from the tower, which was then curtailed as a memorial to him. Yet another tale is the Franciscans simply ran out of money or that the mission wanted to avoid taxes.

The piece de resistance of the facade is the spectacular earth toned stone portal that extends to the roof. It’s an astonishing composition with niches holding female saints (identity unknown).

he magnificent stone portal ,on of the most unique features of San Xavier del Bac

The portal is alive with outsize scrolls, shells, and segmented pilasters. Decorative elements represent nature, like the pomegranates. There are also the typical Baroque volutes (scroll shaped forms) near the top.

There’s also cat and mouse sculptures. They glower eternally at each other from their respective sides. Papago legend holds that the world will end when the cat catches the mouse.

frescos in the dome above of the high altar of San Xavier del Bac

Interior of San Xavier

Like most European churches, the interior of San Xavier is laid out in the shape of a Latin cross. Inside, there’s a density of decoration.

The mission is intimate and bedecked with frescos. Angels are everywhere.

Some of them are quite unusual, not what you find in typical European Baroque Architecture true. It’s as if a tribe of folk artists were making up Baroque motifs.

details of the retable with whimsical sculptures

In some of the paintings, you’ll spy tipsy flower vases, coiled snakes, images of Franciscan saints, and cheery trompe l’oeil frames around paintings of biblical scenes.

A painted cord runs around the walls. It echoes the rope belt of St. Francis’ own brown habit. There are 7 oval and saucer shaped domes above.

 the main alter of Mission San Xavier del Bac

The only part of the interior not dominated by frescoes is the extraordinarily elaborate bronze Retablo Mayor behind the altar. There’s battalion of saints. The figure of St. Francis Xavier, in bright white, dominates the center.

The extravagance of ornate details seem to send the message to the Indians — and to all visitors — about how big and lofty Christianity was.

Unfortunately, you can’t get up close to see the retable at present, which was a bit of a disappointment.

the carved angels on each side of the retable

There are two chapels to each side of the main altar.

On one side of the main altar is the Chapel of the Sorrowful Mother. Mary wears a shimmering blue dress, a mantilla, and a crown.

In the Suffering Savior Chapel, you’ll a fresco of The Last Supper . As is typical, a betraying Judas peeks out at the viewer.

The Last Supper at San Xavier

READ : All The Last Suppe r Paintings From Renaissance Italy

There’s also a carved effigy of St. Francis Xavier in the west altar. It’s a particular source of devotion for the Papagos.

His bed is made up with real pillows and sheets. To this day, on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the people process with the statue of St. Francis Xavier.

Legend holds that only those with a pure heart have the power to raise the saint’s head.

sanctuary wall inside the San Xavier

The mission also has a small mortuary chapel, patio, and convent.

Restoration

In 1978, a group called Patronato was formed. Their mission is to protect and conserve the church, and they’re working to build an endowment.

In 1992, master conservators from Rome were brought in to work on San Xavier. While there, they trained four members of the Tohono O’odham Nation in their discipline.

That painstaking work includes cleaning statues and paintings by carefully removing decades of soot and grime from wax candles.

To date, over $12 million has been raised and spent. The overreaching conservation philosophy is one of using tradition materials with minimal intervention.

the carved wood pulpit

Practical Information For Visiting San Xavier

Address : 1950 West San Xavier Road, Tucson AZ 85746. The mission is only 9 miles south of Tucson. To get here from Tucson, take I-19 south, get off on San Xavier Road at Exit 92, and head west.

Hours : 9:00 am to 4:00 pm daily

Entry : Admission is free. If you can’t make it, click here for a virtual tour.

The bad news is that right now isn’t the best time to visit San Xavier because of ongoing restoration and scaffolding. There is limited visiting, which will hopefully change. The eastern tower is under scaffolding as it’s being re-plastered.

the high altar and chapels, highlights of San Xavier del Bac Mission

Access to the Church is currently limited to an area just inside the front doors for viewing, prayers, and placing prayer candles. Only a limited number of visitors are permitted inside at any one time.

 A little black sign greets visitors as they walk into the San Xavier: “Welcome to this house of worship. Please speak quietly, so as not to disturb those in prayer, God bless you.”

The gift shop in the mission has little of interest. But the Indian Arts and Crafts Bazaar on San Xavier Plaza (to the left as you approach the church) sells rugs, baskets, jewelry, and other Native American crafts.

tile mural of St. Francis

This is a good place to try the local specialty, fry bread tacos. You can get one at WA:K Snack Shop across the street.

There’s also a nearby hill, Grotto Hill, which you can climb for good views of the mission. Though there’s a sign warning you that’s it’s private property at the summit.

Mass : The mission is an active parish. Masses are held Saturdays at 5 pm and Sundays at 10 am and 11:30 am. Right now, they are held outdoors at the inner courtyard of the Church and are limited to 25 attendees.

Mary in the Sorrowful Mother Chapel

The mission usually has docent led tours when mass is not in session. They are available Monday through Saturday 9:30 to 12:30.

I think the docent tours would really improve your visit. But check before you go to make sure they’re happening because they were cancelled during the pandemic.

You can also book a 3 hour Get Your Guide tour that includes San Xavier and the nearby town of Tombstone.

angel fresco

I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to San Xavier del Bac Mission. You may enjoy these other United States city guides:

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guide to San Xavier Del Bac Mission in Tucson Arizona

5 thoughts on “Guide To San Xavier del Bac Mission In Tucson Arizona”

This is a beautiful place. I have been there myself but learned a lot more about it from your presentation. As usual, you take beautiful pictures

Good news! The restoration (except on a portion not visible) is complete. The church is also fully open. At this writing 22 June 2022, the only restrictions by the tribe and Wa:k community is that masks should be worn, especially inside. I saw several people not wearing masks inside. This extremely disrespectful of the O’odam. The reservation is an independent community which can set it’s own rules. If you go, be respectful. They were here for thousands of years. I live locally and visit often. So glad to see the scaffolding removed and the grounds open.

*I misspelled O’odham. Sorry. The tribe is Tohono O’odham.

Glad to here that! I will make a note in my article.

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Last Updated on March 8, 2022 by Leslie Livingston

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As Spanish colonists moved northward from Mexico into present day Arizona claiming more land for New Spain, Jesuits founded a chain of missions along the Sonoran Mountain range. The San Xavier del Bac Mission, a National Historic Landmark, was founded in 1700 by Father Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit explorer who worked to spread Christianity in New Spain. Completed by the Franciscans in 1797, the historic white stucco church stands on the site Father Kino chose. Often called the “white dove of the desert,” the mission is located in the San Xavier Reservation, part of the Tohono O’odham nation, southwest of Tucson in Pima County, Arizona.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Catholic missions were an integral part of Spanish colonization. Missions, usually run by Jesuit or Franciscan friars, created European settlements that allowed colonization to expand the boundaries of Spanish culture and influence. The missions intended to Christianize and Hispanicize Native Americans. At San Xavier del Bac, Jesuits first introduced the Tohono O'odham, a Piman-speaking group, to domesticated horses and cattle. The Spanish also brought European crops, like wheat. Missionaries transformed the lives of semi-nomadic Native Americans with animal husbandry and permanent, rather than seasonal, settlement. The settlement of San Xavier del Bac near the Santa Cruz River was a Tohono O'odham town called Wa:k, a Piman word for water. The mission’s name reflects the mixing of Spanish Catholic and O'odham desert cultures.

The mission’s founder, Father Eusebio Kino, was a leader of the mission system in New Spain. Born in Italy and educated in Germany, Father Kino was an explorer and a cartographer as well as a Jesuit missionary. He entered the Jesuit order at Freiburg, Germany, and soon chose a missionary life. He arrived in Mexico in 1681 and worked to spread Catholicism, by way of Spanish colonization, throughout the region. Prior to his death in 1711, Father Kino hoped to take up residency at San Xavier del Bac Mission. At that time, he was the resident priest at Mission Dolores in Magdalena, Sonora. He was still waiting for his replacement to arrive when he passed away. For his work in bringing European culture to southern Arizona, his statue sits in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. Pilgrims still travel each year to Mission Dolores in Sonora, Mexico to celebrate the feast of Father Kino’s patron saint, St. Francis Xavier, and to honor Kino’s contributions to O’odham life and culture.

The mission church that still stands at San Xavier del Bac was completed around the time that the Spanish Empire in North America waned. Construction began in 1783 under the residency 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 11 years of 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. Father Diaz was the last priest to reside at San Xavier del Bac for 36 years.

The middle decades of the 19th century were an unstable period for San Xavier del Bac. In 1853, the Gadsden Purchase land treaty between the United States and New Mexico made the mission a U.S. possession. In 1859, the Catholic Church placed the church under the jurisdiction of the Santa Fe diocese. The diocese, under Bishop Lamy, repaired the church’s exposed adobe brick, and in 1864, Jesuit Father Carolus Evasius Messea resided there for eight months. During Father Messea’s time at San Xavier del Bac, he founded the first public school in Arizona, but the local Pima community lacked interest in the church and limited funding forced the parish to close. In 1874, the U.S. government established the San Xavier Reservation.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Bishop Henry Granjon ordered renovations and new construction on the church and oversaw repairs to the church façade and mortuary wall, which were damaged by an earthquake in 1887. Granjon had the entire church replastered and repainted. He also built a wall along the front of the convent and placed an arch at its east end. Grotto Hill, three hundred feet east of the church, is a small hillock topped by a white cross. On the north side of the hill is a replica of the Grotto of Lourdes. Bishop Granjon oversaw the construction of this shrine to the Virgin Mary in 1908.

The church received its first priest since Father Messea in 1913, a Franciscan and native of Tucson named Father Ferdinand Oritz. Since the arrival of Father Oritz, California Franciscans have run the church and served the San Xavier Reservation. In 1947, they founded a school for local Pima children. In 1949, they installed new floors within the church, repaired the roof and walls, and improved living conditions within the convent.

Unlike many other historic Spanish missions from the era, the architecture of the current 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 and aspects of 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.

The beautiful Spanish colonial church at San Xavier del Bac endures. The Secretary of the Interior designated the mission a National Historic Landmark in 1960. The church continues to serve the residents of the San Xavier Reservation. The church is open to visitors daily, except during special services, and the public is welcome to join the San Xavier community for regular masses. San Xavier del Bac Mission, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 1950 W. San Xavier Rd., Tucson, AZ. 

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Last updated: August 11, 2021

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San Xavier del Bac Mission

San Xavier del Bac Mission Tucson, Arizona Coordinates: 32.107306, -111.007876 #TravelSpanishMissions Discover Our Shared Heritage Spanish Colonial Missions of the Southwest Travel Itinerary

San Xavier del Bac Mission

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San Xavier del Bac Mission

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Plan Your Visit

San Xavier del Bac Mission, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 1950 W. San Xavier Rd., Tucson, AZ. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos . The San Xavier del Bac Mission is an active Catholic mission church open daily from 7:00am to 5:00pm, except when weddings, funerals, or other special church functions are held. The church gift shop is open 8:00am to 5:00pm daily and the museum is open 8:30am to 4:30pm daily. For more information, visit the Mission San Xavier del Bac website or call 520-294-2624. The San Xavier del Bac Mission is a site along the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail , please visit their website for information on sites along the 1,200-mile trail that connects history, culture, and outdoor recreation across 20 counties of Arizona and California. San Xavier del Bac Mission has been documented by the National Park Service Historic American Buildings Survey and is also featured in the National Park Service American Southwest Travel Itinerary and the American Latino Heritage Travel Itinerary .

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Last updated: April 15, 2016

san xavier mission haunted

The Mission San Xavier del Bac: A Shrine Without Borders

Parachuting domes held aloft by frescoed angels, a battalion of saints staring out from a vast, shining, multi-paneled retablo, a pair of golden lions guarding the altar—we are overwhelmed by all we see as we walk into the Mission San Xavier del Bac. We smell burning sage as Tim Lewis—parishioner, member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, and conservator—lifts smoking herbs toward the two life-sized angels suspended at the entrance to the sanctuary, their wings and robes vibrant with restored gold leaf and painted flowers.

When Mr. Lewis was a child, these carved angels frightened him the most. They loomed on either side of the altar, their wood and fabric blackened at that time with smoke from votive candles and incense. “You couldn’t make out images,” Mr. Lewis recalls now, 50 years later. “Even the statues were dark. So it was kind of spooky. And, you know, we had candlelight. It was intimidating.”

“You know, when people come here, they pray. They leave their prayers here, and so it’s a heavy burden on the church—the saints especially."  

Early this Tuesday morning, the church still rests in a cool shadow. Soon, the cemetery chapel will be blazing with so many votive candles it will feel like walking into a furnace. But for now, with few visitors present, Mr. Lewis takes the time to walk and smoke the aisles of the church, as he has been asked to do, weekly, by his community’s elders.

“You know, when people come here, they pray,” Mr. Lewis says when he has finished. “They leave their prayers here, and so it’s a heavy burden on the church—the saints especially. That’s all I’m doing, I’m just cleaning.”

We had driven 700 miles to bring our own burdens to the church. It was June. Stories of immigrant children being separated from their parents were everywhere in the news, and any resolution to that horror was uncertain. In the midst of tired, polarized debates over the U.S.-Mexican border, I wanted to go back to Arizona, where I was born, to Tucson, where I lived for many years, so that we could visit Mission San Xavier del Bac, a place that has withstood the challenges of shifting borders, overlapping territories and cross-cultural barriers for more than 300 years.

In those centuries, the mission—and the part of the Sonoran Desert that surrounds it—has belonged to Spain, Mexico and the United States, though the land has been home to the Tohono O’odham Nation since long before European colonists dreamed of their own expansion. The mission’s founder, an energetic Italian Jesuit named Eusebio Francisco Kino, established several missionary locations in what is now Sonora, Mexico, and southern Arizona, including San Xavier del Bac in 1692, near the village of Wa:k .

Jesuit success in the area proved to be the order’s downfall. King Carlos III of Spain, suspicious of the Jesuits’ growing wealth and influence, decided New Spain would be better off without them. In 1767, all Jesuits were deported, some dying on their way into exile, and the mission fell into the care of the Franciscans, who spearheaded the construction of the present church. Designed by a baroque-influenced Basque mason, financed by a Sonoran rancher, decorated with statues made in Mexico City workshops and built by O’odham laborers who were paid in food and tobacco, miraculously, and against all odds, the mission has become the finest surviving example of Spanish colonial architecture in the United States.

Given that the mission now serves as a local parish while receiving 200,000 visitors each year—a tremendous burden, indeed—it has also become, to borrow a phrase from Mircea Eliade, an axis mundi , a sacred point through which space and time—territory and history—are continuously reincorporated into their eternal significance by the people who worship there. That persistent religious intention prevents the church from becoming a mere historical monument and situates it instead as a true holy place, where heaven, earth and hell convene.

“He went all the way from Sonora to California, and there was no borders. It was with an idea, a belief. The belief: when there is something good to do, there is no borders.”

Matilde Rubio, a conservator at the shrine, pays special attention to these layers of history, place and meaning. She works with the prudent eye of an art historian, yet she has another, more personal connection to this place. She left Spain to marry Mr. Lewis in the 1990s, and since then she has become an active member of the parish with an acute sensitivity for the relationship between the Tohono O’odham and their church. For Ms. Rubio, the mission’s past proposes a way of life in the midst of a culture crossed by borders that threaten the life of the mission. Time and again, she thinks of Father Kino.

“He took his mule,” she says. “He went all the way from Sonora to California, and there was no borders. It was with an idea, a belief. The belief: when there is something good to do, there is no borders.”

On the altar of the west transept, beneath a statue of the Man of Sorrows, you will find the focal point of the mission’s devotional life: a carved effigy of St. Francis Xavier, S.J. He reclines on a satin pillow beneath a hand-sewn blanket, to which petitioners fasten their prayers, often in the form of milagros —tiny metal charms shaped as body parts, people, animals or objects—each of which might take on a multitude of special intentions.

For a petitioner, a heart-shaped milagro can express simultaneously a prayer for a heart in mourning, an offering after cardiac surgery, a call to unify the hearts of a community and adoration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In this sense, a milagro is not a fixed symbolic system; rather, it embodies, sacramentally, entire languages that are traditionally used to speak to God, and pinned to the body of the saint. Recycled for use again, as milagros at the mission are, it embodies the prayers of entire communities and enables their stories to co-exist.

Recycled for use again, as milagros at the mission are, it embodies the prayers of entire communities and enables their stories to co-exist.

It is the same with the carved wooden body on this altar, this santo , which is adaptable, almost without limit, to serve the needs of the community, and which was originally, perhaps, not an effigy of St. Francis Xavier at all. According to one account, it was a reclining statue of Jesus the Nazarene that was salvaged and transported to Wa:k from a mission station at Tumacácori during a series of Apache raids. In another account, it was a statue of Christ Entombed that floated away from Tumacácori during a flood and was discovered in the Santa Cruz riverbed near Wa:k. For historians, the symbolic transformation of the statue from Christ Jesus to St. Francis Xavier is a puzzle—we do not know precisely how it happened—but for the faithful, it is simply a reality of spirit, a knowledge that one saint is always a manifestation of the presence of the communion of saints, unified in the incarnate body of the risen Christ.

Hence, not surprisingly, when religious persecution in Mexico prevented the O’odham from traveling to Magdalena in the 1920s and 30s for the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the santo in Wa:k allowed for local celebration by becoming “San Francisco”—simultaneously Xavier and Assisi. To this day, on the feast day of Francis of Assisi, the people process with the statue of Francis Xavier. The Jesuit saint lays down his body for the Franciscan saint, and vice versa, just as Christ laid down his body for us all. That is the body that we share as our common icon. That is the truth of our common home.

While we watch pilgrims approach the santo , Mr. Lewis invites us and the conservation team out to the shaded patio for a rest. He tells us what it has been like to conserve the angels that haunted his childhood.

“We’re now more at peace with each other, I guess,” Mr. Lewis says to us.

“People look at art as art,” he goes on. “I always look at it as the people who did the paintings, not only our people, but the Spanish. You know, they went through a lot of suffering to do this, especially our people. When we do the restoration work, it’s in honor of them.”

Mr. Lewis and Ms. Rubio reflect in their marriage the fusion of O’odham and Spanish cultures that makes the mission unique.

In this way, Mr. Lewis and Ms. Rubio reflect in their marriage the fusion of O’odham and Spanish cultures that makes the mission unique. And as in any marriage, they are hoping to leave an inheritance. That is why they have begun to train Anthony Sweezy and Susie Moreno in the arts of conservation. The apprentices tell us about learning to restore the santos , how they use small amounts of water to ease paint back into place. In this desert, even the saints need water.

But they are not the only ones, as Mr. Sweezy knows from traveling around the mission. Often, he meets immigrants attempting to make the crossing.

“We’ve run into people that are very desperate and almost at the point of death,” he tells us. “So we try to give them as much water and food [as we can].”

We ask Ms. Rubio if she thinks the walls of this mission can change the conversation about immigration. She is not so sure.

“The people who suffer injustice come here to pray,” she says. “The people who make the laws, I don’t see them here.”

san xavier mission haunted

When we leave, we take I-10 east towards New Mexico through a landscape of massive boulders that will outlast us. A mile or two away from a Border Patrol checkpoint, we see a young man on the side of the road—perhaps not yet 20—burdened by nothing except an empty water jug that he is waving in the air. So close to the highway, so near a checkpoint, such an obvious gesture can mean only one thing: surrender. Struggling to cross in the summer’s most unrelenting heat, he has decided deportation holds a more promising fate.

Driving at 75 miles per hour, with our car full to capacity, we know we cannot change the laws in this instant. We know we cannot change the patterns of climate. We cannot make clouds to veil the sun. So we do what we can do; we pull over and give him water to drink. It is a necessary weight he will have to carry with him, at least until he arrives at the checkpoint and someone takes him where they think he should go.

san xavier mission haunted

Gina Franco is the author of  The Keepsake Storm . Her work has appeared in publications like 32 Poems and Image. Her writing is also anthologized in  Camino del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing , and  The Other Latin@: Writing Against a Singular Identity .

san xavier mission haunted

Christopher Poore is a Regenstein Fellow at the University of Chicago Divinity School and an associate poetry editor at Narrative Magazine. He lives with his wife, the poet Gina Franco, in Galesburg, Ill.

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Small Group Tombstone & San Xavier Mission Day Trip from Phoenix

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  • Hotel pickup and drop-off at select Phoenix area hotels
  • Professional guide
  • Bottled water
  • Fuel surcharge
  • Entry/Admission - Mission San Xavier del Bac
  • Entry/Admission - Tombstone
  • Entry/Admission - Boothill Graveyard
  • Entry/Admission - O.K. Corral
  • Entry/Admission - Big Nose Kate's Saloon
  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites Tempe, an IHG Hotel, 1520 W Baseline Rd, Tempe, AZ 85283, USA This is a guaranteed pick up location, however, please let the supplier know as soon as possible if you are NOT staying here, as they may have a closer meet location for you.
  • Please note: We do not pick up at private residences and we do not guarantee pickup for all hotels. Even if your hotel is on the list, there may be a chance you'll need to meet at an alternate location. If need be, the supplier will determine a location you can meet to be picked up for your excursion. Tour supplier contact details will be provided on your pre-paid voucher.
  • Not wheelchair accessible
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  • Confirmation will be received at time of booking
  • Minimum of four (4) passengers is required in order for the tour to operate. There is a possibility of cancellation after confirmation if there is not enough passengers to meet requirements. In the event of this occurring, you will be offered an alternative or full refund
  • Arizona state law requires children under 8 years to have either a child seat or booster. Child seats are not provided, please bring your own
  • Minimum age is 2 years
  • Most travelers can participate
  • Foldable wheelchairs are acceptable
  • This experience requires a minimum number of travelers. If it’s canceled because the minimum isn’t met, you’ll be offered a different date/experience or a full refund
  • This tour/activity will have a maximum of 13 travelers
  • For a full refund, cancel at least 24 hours in advance of the start date of the experience.
  • You'll start at Holiday Inn Express & Suites Tempe, an IHG Hotel Or, you can also get picked up See departure details
  • 1 Mission San Xavier del Bac Stop: 60 minutes - Admission included See details
  • 2 Tombstone Stop: 3 hours - Admission included See details
  • 3 O.K. Corral Stop: 30 minutes - Admission excluded See details
  • 4 Big Nose Kate's Saloon Stop: 30 minutes - Admission excluded See details
  • 5 Boothill Graveyard Stop: 30 minutes - Admission included See details
  • You'll return to the starting point

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Small Group Tombstone & San Xavier Mission Day Trip from Phoenix provided by Detours American West

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Moscow’s urban legends: Ghosts, mutant rats under the Metro

Construction of Fonvizinskaya metro station on the Lyublinsko-Dmitriyevskaya Line in Moscow

Construction of Fonvizinskaya metro station on the Lyublinsko-Dmitriyevskaya Line in Moscow

Among the world's most famous urban legends is about alligators allegedly living in New York City's sewer system. The Russians do not lag behind the Americans in terms of the popular imagination. Some see giant rats in the metro, while others talk about ghosts and the "mutagenic radiation" of the Ostankino television tower.

The mysteries of the metro

When it comes to rumours about the Moscow subway , truth is closely intertwined with fiction. Even officials do not deny that there are classified military and government lines under the capital – the so-called "Metro-2.”

That there are classified military and government lines under the capital – the so-called "Metro-2” – is not denied even by some officials. Photo: Construction of Fonvizinskaya metro station on the Lyublinsko-Dmitriyevskaya Line in Moscow. Source: Vitaliy Belousov/RIA Novosti

Enthusiasts have, however, been unsuccessfully trying to find more accurate information for years. Is there one line there or an entire system? Or is there an underground city for 15,000 people? Typical for an urban legend, there are a thousand versions of this story. They are united by an aura of secrecy and danger.

"It was really scary to hear the sound of tarpaulin boots near the alleged entrance to Metro-2," said Konstantin, one of Moscow’s community of “diggers,” or enthusiasts who explore subterranean bunkers, wells, tunnels and other facilities. "Is it still guarded by the KGB men, or something?"

Another Moscow resident claims her digger friend was allegedly shot at by special services while searching for Metro-2. The difficult-to-verify stories by the diggers about their adventures at the closed facility add to people's curiosity.

"My grandmother told me about Metro-2 in my childhood, and then about mutant rats," recalls Moscow resident Valeria. In the 1990s, tabloids publicized stories about giant rats living in the tunnels.

So could Splinter from " Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles " find company in the Moscow catacombs? "It's all science: Radiation from rocks must cause mutations in rats," says Pavel, also from Moscow. "But they live in technical rooms, so you can't see them."

Skeptics say that the crying comes from late-working employees of the Tunisian embassy: the commissar's house is now occupied by a diplomatic mission. Source: Lori/Legion-Media

On the surface

Not only are the underground bunkers of the Soviet elite shrouded in legend, but also fairly earthly structures, such as the home of Lavrenty Beria, the USSR People's Commissar for State Security and Stalin's right-hand man.

During interrogation in 1953, Beria confessed to abducting and raping dozens of women, but the authenticity of these papers is still being debated (Beria was removed by Khrushchev in a power struggle, and the documents could have been falsified after the execution of this dangerous rival).

But the image of the sadistic Beria was firmly imprinted on the popular mind, and his house in Moscow is surrounded by dark rumours. Allegedly, an invisible car rolls on Malaya Nikitskaya Ulitsa at midnight, with its old motor rumbling. Footsteps are heard, and Beria's ghost comes to his house for violent pleasures: curious pedestrians will soon even hear a woman crying from behind the walls.

Skeptics will say that the crying comes from late-working employees of the Tunisian embassy (the commissar's house is now occupied by a diplomatic mission), but this version is much more boring, even though probably the truth.

Napoleonic soldiers and a 500-year-old witch

It is not only the city centre where legends abound.

Many people believe that hundreds of soldiers from Napoleon’s army were buried in the hills of Peredelkino, a holiday village in the outskirts of Moscow, in 1812. Paranormal enthusiasts imbue the mounds with mystical qualities, believing that electronics go haywire and travellers disappear there.

The 500-year-old witch is believed to have predicted the high-profile murder of well-known TV journalist Vlad Listyev and a fire at Ostankino in 2000. Photo: A lightning over the Ostankino TV tower in Moscow. Source: Denis Murin/RIA Novosti

In reality, however, it is likely that there are no mass graves there.

"After the difficult war with Napoleon, peasants saw its echoes everywhere, so this is an old myth," researchers of the Museum of Moscow told RIR. "In the 19th century, archaeologists excavated Slavic mounds from the 10 th and 11 th centuries. But the inhabitants of the surrounding villages still considered them to be the graves of French soldiers."

The Ostankino neighbourhood, where Europe's highest TV tower is located, is also mythologized. It is allegedly haunted by the ghost of an old woman, who was murdered in the 16 th century. Now she walks around and predicts disasters.

The 500-year-old witch is believed to have predicted the high-profile murder of well-known TV journalist Vlad Listyev and a fire at Ostankino in 2000. Sometimes these stories are complemented by vivid details – for example, the furniture in Listyev's office was allegedly gnawed after his death by animals, mutated by the tower's radiation.

Then there are less bloody rumours: for example, one about a bulldozer embedded by builders in the TV centre's building by mistake. Yana Sidorova, the author of a study about the legends of Ostankino, says the TV centre's staff do not really believe in these sorts of stories, but are quite happy to spread them.

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Ch. 9 The Development of Russia

Ivan i and the rise of moscow, learning objective.

  • Outline the key points that helped Moscow become so powerful and how Ivan I accomplished these major victories
  • Moscow was considered a small trading outpost under the principality of Vladimir-Suzdal into the 13th century.
  • Power struggles and constant raids under the Mongol Empire’s Golden Horde caused once powerful cities, such as Kiev, to struggle financially and culturally.
  • Ivan I utilized the relative calm and safety of the northern city of Moscow to entice a larger population and wealth to move there.
  • Alliances between Golden Horde leaders and Ivan I saved Moscow from many of the raids and destruction of other centers, like Tver.

A rival city to Moscow that eventually lost favor under the Golden Horde.

Grand Prince of Vladimir

The title given to the ruler of this northern province, where Moscow was situated.

The Rise of Moscow

Moscow was only a small trading outpost in the principality of Vladimir-Suzdal in Kievan Rus’ before the invasion of Mongol forces during the 13th century. However, due to the unstable environment of the Golden Horde, and the deft leadership of Ivan I at a critical time during the 13th century, Moscow became a safe haven of prosperity during his reign. It also became the new seat of power of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Ivan I (also known as Ivan Kalita) was born around 1288 to the Prince of Moscow, Daniil Aleksandrovich. He was born during a time of devastation and upheaval in Rus’. Kiev had been overtaken by the invading Mongol forces in 1240, and most of the Rus’ principalities had been absorbed into the Golden Horde of the Mongol Empire by the time Ivan was born. He ascended to the seat of Prince of Moscow after the death of his father, and then the death of his older brother Yury.

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Ivan I. He was born around 1288 and died in either 1340 or 1341, still holding the title of Grand Prince of Vladimir.

Ivan I stepped into a role that had already been expanded by his predecessors. Both his older brother and his father had captured nearby lands, including Kolomna and Mozhaisk. Yury had also made a successful alliance with the Mongol leader Uzbeg Khan and married his sister, securing more power and advantages within the hierarchy of the Golden Horde.

Ivan I continued the family tradition and petitioned the leaders of the Golden Horde to gain the seat of Grand Prince of Vladimir. His other three rivals, all princes of Tver, had previously been granted the title in prior years. However they were all subsequently deprived of the title and all three aspiring princes also eventually ended up murdered. Ivan I, on the other hand, garnered the title from Khan Muhammad Ozbeg in 1328. This new title, which he kept until his death around 1340, meant he could collect taxes from the Russian lands as a ruling prince and position his tiny city as a major player in the Vladimir region.

Moscow’s Rise

During this time of upheaval, the tiny outpost of Moscow had multiple advantages that repositioned this town and set it up for future prosperity under Ivan I. Three major contributing factors helped Ivan I relocate power to this area:

  • It was situated in between other major principalities on the east and west so it was often protected from the more devastating invasions.
  • This relative safety, compared to Tver and Ryazan, for example, started to bring in tax-paying citizens who wanted a safe place to build a home and earn a livelihood.
  • Finally, Moscow was set up perfectly along the trade route from Novgorod to the Volga River, giving it an economic advantage from the start.

Ivan I also spurred on the growth of Moscow by actively recruiting people to move to the region. In addition, he bought the freedom of people who had been captured by the extensive Mongol raids. These recruits further bolstered the population of Moscow. Finally, he focused his attention on establishing peace and routing out thieves and raiding parties in the region, making for a safe and calm metaphorical island in a storm of unsettled political and military upsets.

image

Kievan Rus’ 1220-1240. This map illustrates the power dynamics at play during the 13th century shortly before Ivan I was born. Sarai, the capital of the Golden Horde, sat to the southeast, while Moscow (not visible on this map) was tucked up in the northern forests of Vladimir-Suzdal.

Ivan I knew that the peace of his region depended upon keeping up an alliance with the Golden Horde, which he did faithfully. Moscow’s increased wealth during this era also allowed him to loan money to neighboring principalities. These regions then became indebted to Moscow, bolstering its political and financial position.

In addition, a few neighboring cities and villages were subsumed into Moscow during the 1320s and 1330s, including Uglich, Belozero, and Galich. These shifts slowly transformed the tiny trading outpost into a bustling city center in the northern forests of what was once Kievan Rus’.

Russian Orthodox Church and The Center of Moscow

Ivan I committed some of Moscow’s new wealth to building a splendid city center and creating an iconic religious setting. He built stone churches in the center of Moscow with his newly gained wealth. Ivan I also tempted one of the most important religious leaders in Rus’, the Orthodox Metropolitan Peter, to the city of Moscow. Before the rule of the Golden Horde the original Russian Orthodox Church was based in Kiev. After years of devastation, Metropolitan Peter transferred the seat of power to Moscow where a new Renaissance of culture was blossoming. This perfectly timed transformation of Moscow coincided with the decades of devastation in Kiev, effectively transferring power to the north once again.

image

Peter of Moscow and scenes from his life as depicted in a 15th-century icon. This religious leader helped bring cultural power to Moscow by moving the seat of the Russian Orthodox Church there during Ivan I’s reign.

One of the most lasting accomplishments of Ivan I was to petition the Khan based in Sarai to designate his son, who would become Simeon the Proud, as the heir to the title of Grand Prince of Vladimir. This agreement a line of succession that meant the ruling head of Moscow would almost always hold power over the principality of Vladimir, ensuring Moscow held a powerful position for decades to come.

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Pope meets with new Russian ambassador as second Moscow mission planned for his Ukraine peace envoy

FILE - Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, head of the CEI (Italian Conference of Bishops), welcomes parishioners after celebrating Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow, on June 29, 2023. Pope Francis’ Ukraine peace envoy, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, is heading to China on the fourth leg of a mission that has already brought him to Kyiv, Moscow and Washington, the Vatican said Tuesday.. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, file)

FILE - Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, head of the CEI (Italian Conference of Bishops), welcomes parishioners after celebrating Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Moscow, on June 29, 2023. Pope Francis’ Ukraine peace envoy, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, is heading to China on the fourth leg of a mission that has already brought him to Kyiv, Moscow and Washington, the Vatican said Tuesday.. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, file)

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Russia’s new ambassador to the Vatican met Monday with Pope Francis for a protocol visit, as signs emerged that the Vatican’s Ukraine peace envoy could soon be undertaking a second mission to Moscow.

The Vatican said Ambassador Ivan Soltanovsky was presenting his credentials to Francis, signaling the official start of his term. His motorcade was seen leaving the Russian embassy Monday morning, bound for the Vatican, and returning about two hours later.

Soltanovsky replaced Ambassador Alexander Avdeev, whom Francis met with on Feb. 25, 2022 in a remarkable in-person papal visit to the embassy the day after Moscow’s forces invaded Ukraine.

The credential presentation appointment comes after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in recent days that Moscow was ready to meet again with Francis’ Ukraine peace envoy, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, a veteran of the Catholic Church’s peace initiatives.

FILE - Vyacheslav Volodin attends a session at the State Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament in Moscow, on Oct. 18, 2023. A senior lawmaker says Russia's parliament will consider a law allowing for the confiscation of money and property from those deemed to spread “deliberately false information” about Moscow's military actions. Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the lower house, said the measure would apply to those calling for “extremist activities” or the introduction of sanctions against Russia as well as those “discrediting” the armed forces, a criminal offense under a law adopted after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine. (The State Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament via AP, File)

“The Vatican is continuing its efforts. The papal envoy will come back (to Russia) soon,” Lavrov said Sept. 15 at a roundtable discussion on Ukraine.

Since Zuppi was appointed in May, he has visited Kyiv, Moscow, Washington and Beijing. Initially his mandate appeared limited to measures to try to reunite Ukrainian children taken to Russia after Moscow’s invasion. But during his meeting last week in Beijing with Li Hui, China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs, the resumption of stalled grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports was also discussed.

Upon his return to Italy, Zuppi said the Beijing meeting represented an important exchange of ideas and he also voiced optimism at Lavrov’s “positive” opening to a second visit. During his first trip to Moscow in June, Zuppi met with Russia’s minister for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, and an adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant in late March for Lvova-Belova and Putin, accusing them of abducting children from Ukraine. Russian officials have denied any forced adoptions, saying some Ukrainian children are in foster care.

Zuppi told the TG2000 broadcaster of the Italian bishops conference this weekend that Lavrov’s openness to a second meeting was “important because peace is made through dialogue and finding the possible and necessary spaces. It’s certainly a positive declaration and goes in the direction hoped for by Pope Francis.”

Francis has followed the Holy See’s tradition of neutrality in conflicts by trying to keep open paths of dialogue with both Ukraine and Russia. His stance, and admiration for Russia’s imperial past and culture, has at times angered Ukraine , especially its Greek Catholic flock.

Winfield reported from Rome.

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    San Xavier del Bac Mission Home > Historical Buildings > San Xavier del Bac Mission Rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of a nun and children who are alleged to have died in a schoolhouse fire. If you've had a paranormal experience here, or have any additional information about this location, please let us know! Related Videos

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  7. Follow up to my article on The Haunted Mission

    In autumn of 2017 my mother visited my home in Tucson. One of the things we did together was visit the San Xavier mission, which is the oldest in the US and is called "The White Dove of the Desert." During that time I had some pretty strange things happen to me, as detailed in this article from July of last year. The Haunted Mission

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