Saturday, April 16, 2011


Founded in 1691 as San Cayetano de Tumacacori, this was the first Jesuit mission in Arizona. It was located on the east side of the Santa Cruz River, about 18 miles north of the Arizona-Mexico border. It was one of 24 missions founded by the Jesuit Father Eusebio Francisco Kino(1645-1711). The area of northern Mexico and southern Arizona that he worked in was known as the Pimera Alta, which means “place of the upper Pimas.” The Spanish referred to most of the Indians of this area as “Pima” Indians. They were also called Papago and TonoOdham. Apaches were also present nearby.

Father Kino was born in Italy and educated in Austria. In addition to trying to convert the natives to Christianity he introduced cattle and some European farming techniques and crops. Father Kino became the first rancher in Arizona. His initial herd of 20 cattle grew to 70,000. His cowboys were the natives. Among the missions he founded was San Xavier del Bac, just south of Tucson, still an active church.(See blog entry of 1/22/10).Father Kino has had many schools, roads, etc. named after him in Arizona. For example, our children went to Kino Junior High in Mesa. Arizona has two statues in the statuary hall in the capitol in Washington, D.C., one of which is Father Kino.

Following a Pima revolt in 1751 the mission was moved to the west side of the Santa Cruz. The Jesuits were expelled by the Spanish government in 1767, and the Franciscans came into the area. The mission was renamed San Jose de Tumacacori. Construction of the current church was begun in the late 1700's but was never completed. The mission was abandoned by 1848, because of predations by the Apaches. The roof was removed by settlers to use the timbers on other projects. It has been under National Park Service protection since 1908. The roof has been replaced three times-1921, 1947 and 1978.

The photo below shows a little more detail of the front of the mission. It was built of adobe bricks. The walls at the base of the belltower are five feet thick. There are Moorish and Spanish-Mexican renaissance elements in the facade.

The three photos below show detail of the facade and the bell tower. The bell tower was never finished before the mission was abandoned.

The two photos below are taken from the east side of the church, including one with some detail of the dome over the altar.

This cross of flowers is maintained on the wall behind where he altar would have been.

These graves are behind the church. The most recent grave is from 1916.

This is the remains of a storage building. These pots are like what the Indians and the Spanish would have stored such things as corn and beans in.

This photo shows the cupola of the church above the wall of the storage building.

The ruins of a building to the east(right) of the church are where mission priests and other workers lived. The roof is long gone. The second photo is a view through a window of this building.

This next photo is one of my all-time favorites. This was taken on a trip to Tumacacori in 1974, on Kodachrome, using my first 35mm SLR, a Mamiya Sekor 1000DTL with a 50 or 55mm lens. I have scanned it and done a little color correction. The photo shows a Franciscan(I think) priest approaching the door to the church. It's like I was thrown back in time 150+ years. He was there making himself available to people who were interested in getting the Catholic church's take on Tumacacori.

This last photo is a personal favorite of mine, taken on my most recent trip to southern Arizona. I hope you like it.


  1. Absolutely gorgeous photos. Wonderful to relax with.

  2. Thank you. Tumacacori has been a favorite place of mine for more years than I care to remember.

  3. One of my favorite places ever! Great pictures too, of course.