ART OF SPACE
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