The current structure was built by Franciscans beginning in the 1780s by Native Americans of the Tohono O'odhan nation. It is considered by many to be Americas finest surviving example of Spanish Colonial architecture.
Altar (restoration continues in this area).
The interior is a mixture of New Spain and Native American motifs. The workmanship and beauty of the frescos, paintings, statues, and carvings dating from the 1750s are amazing.
Candles can be purchased ($3 for new or used ones are free) in the museum area and place in various locations around the mission. Some can be seen in photo below in the east transept.
Restoration work has been underway for years and continues today. Over $10M has been raised and spent for this purpose. Restored mural on eastern wall of the nave.
A wedding party was gathering while we were there for an afternoon wedding.
The various courtyards in the complex are beautiful as well with tile ornamentation and beautifully maintained cactus gardens.
To the east of the missions is Martinez Hill, named after Lt. Col. Jose Maria Martinez, who was in charge of the presidio of Tucson in the 1830s. He was granted land by the Native American chief. There is a cross at the top of the hill today.
Follow the path around the hill to view the grotto where candles are placed in honor of the blessed virgin mother.
Here is the plaque placed here in 1908 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the sightings at the Grotto of Lourdes.
Also, seen from the hill, are these messages created with stones by visitors to the mission.
Another view of the cross that is situated atop the Martinez Hill.
After perusing the area, we stopped for some Indian frybread. Several stations were set up in front of the mission with menus of frybread and sodas/water.
We decided to try some and purchased a cheese frybread and one with beans. They were prepared at the location and were delicious!
I really enjoy visiting National Historical sites. There is so much history here. While we have visited other missions, this one was particularly interesting because of its long history playing an active role in the Native American community for over 300 years.
There is no admission fee to the mission although donations are gratefully accepted. Photos are not permitted in the church when a mass or ceremony is being held.