Saturday, November 16, 2013
In the 1690's Jesuit missionary, Padre Eusebio Kino, established one of the first missions in what is now Arizona at Tumacacori. The native O'odham people were living along the Santa Cruz river in that area so it was a good place for working with them to expand their agriculture along with teaching them Spanish and Christianity.
In 1767 the Jesuits were expelled from New Spain and about a year later Franciscan missionaries began to come into the area. In 1800 the building project began to erect a magnificent church. Funds were scarce so the construction went slowly. Indian and Spanish laborers laid 5 feet thick cobblestone foundations. Slowly, year by year, the walls grew. In 1821 the construction started in earnest and the walls grew to 14 feet. The construction continued but the bell tower was never completed with a dome.
The Spanish priests were expelled in 1828 and local priests served until the late 1840's. After that the mission began to fall into ruin. In the 1930's the National Park Service began managing the mission site as a National Historic Park. They have done minimal restoration since they want to show the ravages of time on the building but have stabilized walls and minimized further deterioration.
Inside the church there was scaffolding in the choir loft area where some of the preservation work was going on.
Records show that more than 500 people were buried in the mission grounds but there are only a few marked graves now.
The mission grounds are extensive and include orchards and farm plots which were irrigated from the Santa Cruz River.
The building, orchards, farms and cattle operations must have been an impressive site in the 1840's. I appreciate the preservation efforts to give us a peek at how it must have appeared.