Category Archives: Historic Missions

Preservation work at Tucson’s San Xavier Mission reveals hidden artwork

[Source: Stephanie Innes, Daily Star] — A local historian likes to imagine that angels carried Mission San Xavier del Bac – a beautiful white apparition itself – through the sky and plopped it in the Sonoran Desert. If so, we now know there was one extra angel to help them: a “new” one just discovered in the 211-year-old church. Restorationists Tim Lewis and Matilde Rubio uncovered the painted angel this month on the north wall of the mission’s tall, narrow baptistry, which is under the west tower. The angel, draped in a red cloak, had been hidden for years — perhaps a century or more.

It was covered with dirt and a thin coating of plaster that was likely applied by well-intentioned construction workers. “It’s always exciting to see something that has been there for a couple of hundred years and no one in the recent century has noted it. Then all of a sudden, there it is,” said Bernard L. “Bunny” Fontana, an ethnohistorian who lives near the mission and has made a lifelong study of its art. He’s working on a book about the mission’s art with photographer Edward McCain. Its title is “A Gift of Angels.” Fontana has always talked about the mission’s 182 angels. Now he’s altering that to 183. The angel is part of a wall painting of John the Baptist baptizing Christ. Prior to the restoration, the entire design looked like a rough sketch, not quite complete or colored in. John the Baptist appeared ghostly. Christ’s face was barely discernible. The top part was hidden under a hard coating. And the faded, dusty mural appeared to have one angel in it.

[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: A.E. Araiza, Daily Star.]