Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos - Paul Wei­de­man

Too many an­gels to count

One of this coun­try’s ar­chi­tec­tural jew­els is the sub­ject of a new book from Uni­ver­sity of Ari­zona Press: A Gift of An­gels: The Art of Mis­sion San Xavier del Bac. This vol­ume about the 213-year-old church near Tuc­son is a big boy — nearly 9 pounds. While a bit hard to han­dle, the 12-by-14-inch for­mat is cer­tainly an ad­van­tage for view­ing the glo­ri­ous pho­tog­ra­phy of Ed­ward McCain.

McCain, win­ner of the 2003 Gold Award for Pho­to­graphic Ex­cel­lence from Ari­zona High­ways mag­a­zine, of­fers 200 color pho­tos of what author Bernard L. Fon­tana calls “a com­mand­ing build­ing with a sen­su­ous dome, el­lip­ti­cal vaults, sturdy bell tow­ers, fly­ing but­tresses, and un­du­lat­ing para­pets.” The build­ing dom­i­nates the Sono­ran Desert land­scape just a few miles from down­town Tuc­son.

Fon­tana, whose ca­reer has been in an­thro­pol­ogy, is the author of many books, among them A Guide to Con­tem­po­rary South­west In­di­ans and Tarahu­mara: Where Night is the Day of the Moon. He lives near Mis­sion San Xavier del Bac, and all three of his chil­dren had First Com­mu­nion there. “They weren’t all bap­tized there,” Fon­tana said by tele­phone. “It’s an In­dian church — it is the parish church for the San Xavier district of the To­hono O’odham Nation — and we’re not for­mally part of the In­dian com­mu­nity, so depend­ing on the priest, bap­tisms have been re­stricted or they haven’t.”

Statue of St. Francis of As­sisi at Mis­sion San Xavier del Bac near Tuc­son; far right, the fa­cade; be­low, the sanc­tu­ary and main al­tar­piece

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