Our last day in Arizona, we had to fly out at 5 pm, so we needed to be at the airport and have the car turned in by about 3:00. We checked out of the hotel and headed a little south of Tucson to the Mission San Xavier del Bac. The Mission was originally founded in 1692 by Eusebio Francisco Kino, the same guy who founded the Mission at Tubac. The current church was built between 1783 and 1797, using mostly native labor and artists. The church was built under the direction of Franciscan Fathers Juan Bautista Velderrain and Juan Bautista Llorenz in the Moorish style, but the architects are unknown. I had seen the outside of the mission before, but Jon has never been. This time we visited the inside of the church, and it is amazing – the frescoes and carving inside the church are absolutely beautiful. A restoration process on the inside is outgoing, so there was scaffolding up and painters working in areas of the church. Keep in mind that this is still an active parish, and the building is still being used for worship. When you go, you will see that one of the towers remains unfinished. Apparently there are a couple of myths that explain why, but there likely isn’t any truth to either. The first myth is that the tax laws of the time exempted buildings that were under construction, and the other surrounds a belief that the tower would remain unfinished until “The Excellent Builder” came to finish it. I guess it will remain a mystery.
After the Mission San Xavier del Bac, we began the hour and a half drive back to Mesa, stopping on the way at the Casa Grande ruins. Casa Grande National Monument is in Coolidge, just northeast of the town of Casa Grande. The Casa Grande (big house) was built in the 13th century by the Hohokam Indians who farmed extensively in the area. The house is built of caliche, and at 4 stories tall, is visible from a long distance away. The Hohokam built an entire complex of adobe houses around it, and it was surrounded by a defensive wall. They also built an extensive irrigation system to farm the land, bringing in water from miles away, and evidence has been found that the Hohokam maintained extensive trade networks. No one knows what the purpose of the Casa Grande was, since it does not appear to have been used for communal living, but it was abandoned around 1450 A.D. It has stood against the elements since that time. Since 1932, it has been a bit better protected against the elements by a large roof covering the entire structure (it makes it look a little bit like an alien invasion). When you go, you will be awestruck at how large the Casa Grande is, especially since it was built entirely of clay. They didn’t have reinforced steel back then! The National Park Service museum there gives information about the Hohokam people, and what they know about the Casa Grande. It is certainly worth a visit.
And just like that, we were wrapping up another amazing trip and heading home. It always make me a little sad to go back to the airport and wait for my flight home, knowing that I have to go back to the grind. But, it is worth it, just for those few days of fun.