(Becky writes) We may have left California this morning but we did not leave beautiful skies. Just look at the deep blue sky in our pictures of the mission. After getting settled into our hotel here in Tucson, we decided we had a few hours of daylight left so we headed south on I-19 to find the San Xavier Mission which is located on the San Xavier Indian Reservation. We visited several missions in California and they are always quite beautiful with lovely garden areas but this one is quite exquisite. It was established in 1692 but the present building was built between 1777-1797. It is known as the "White Dove of the Desert" and is the oldest Catholic Church in America still serving parishioners.
The inside of the mission has gorgeous artwork that has been compared to that of the Sistene Chapel. Actually the same group of restorers that worked on the Sistene came to San Xavier in 1999 to restore the inside of this mission. I thought it was really interesting that in restoring the art they were searching for the perfect "wash" and discovered there is nothing better than the original which is derived from the fruit of the prickly pear cactus. A plea was put out to the people of Tucson to donate their prickly pear fruit to be used in the restoration! As you can see the art work is really beautiful.
The "garden" out front is almost completely made up of different types of cactus. There are saguara, prickly pear, and many others. Tomorrow we plan to visit the Desert Museum and I am hoping to learn the names of some of these beautiful plants.