A Tale of Two Saints at San Xavier del Bac *

Emily Umberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the late eighteenth century, after the expulsion of the Jesuit Order from the Pimería Alta, the Franciscan missionaries who replaced them built a new church at the native settlement of Wa:k (Bac), near Tucson, Arizona. Despite rivalry between these orders, the Franciscans retained the Jesuit name of the place, San Xavier del Bac, and moved the sculpture of the titular saint, Francis Xavier, from the high altar of the old church to that of the new church. In the Catholic Church, the high altar was the conventional location of the titular saint and a second image of the saint could be featured on the church façade. However, photographs of the Bac façade reveal the image of the founder of the Franciscan Order, Francis of Assisi, in the honored facade position. This essay reviews the historical situation that led to this unconventional juxtaposition of saints, and explores the logic behind the Franciscan retention of Jesuit components in their iconographic program.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-160
Number of pages27
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2019


  • Church iconography
  • Franciscan order
  • Jesuit expulsion
  • Jesuit order
  • Pimería Alta
  • Sobaipuris/Tohono O’odham
  • Southwest missions
  • US-Mexico Border

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • History
  • Archaeology


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