Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Mission in the Desert

In the desert there is a light. From 1687 when the Jesuit priest Eusebio Francisco Kino arrived to visit the O'odham village of Wa:k, the site was christened San Xavier del Bac. It is between our Aunt's home in GreenValley and Tucson. And it is a special place.
Recently restored at great cost and great effort over many years, the white is pristine, the sculptures are crisp and the paintings inside, originally made by the local artists, are bright and stunning.
There is a memorial chapel next to the main building with beautiful bells. Also an active school and a community of worshipers who also run the museum and allow visitors into the sanctuary to ooh and aah, take pictures and even to stop and pray.
Every surface is ornamented with a saint or a tableau telling a story. The art runs the gamut of naiive to gilded and sophisticated. Some of the symbolism is lost on this Protestant girl, but I was taken by the brilliant use of light, the reverence of space and the continued effort to maintain a house of worship. There are architects notes and videos of the restoration here. But there is also a lively community raising children and sharing potlucks and mass.
I loved this visit. Climbing the pilgrims hill next to the chapel, reading the proud history of the mission and the building, and especially the warm and gracious welcome we were given, regardless of who we are. I hope to go back some day.

No comments: