A Gift of Angels: The Art of Mission San Xavier del Bac

A Gift of Angels: The Art of Mission San Xavier del Bac

by Bernard L. Fontana
     
 

It rises suddenly out of the Sonoran Desert landscape, towering over the tallest tree or cactus, a commanding building with a sensuous dome, elliptical vaults, and sturdy bell towers. There is nothing else like it around, nor does it seem there should be. This incongruity of setting is what strikes first-time visitors to Mission San Xavier del Bac. This great

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Overview

It rises suddenly out of the Sonoran Desert landscape, towering over the tallest tree or cactus, a commanding building with a sensuous dome, elliptical vaults, and sturdy bell towers. There is nothing else like it around, nor does it seem there should be. This incongruity of setting is what strikes first-time visitors to Mission San Xavier del Bac. This great church is of another place and another time, while its beauty is universal and timeless.

Mission San Xavier del Bac is a two-century-old Spanish church in southern Arizona located just a few miles from downtown Tucson, a metropolis of more than half a million people in the American Southwest. A National Historic Landmark since 1963, the mission’s graceful baroque art and architecture have drawn visitors from all over the world.

Now Bernard Fontana—the leading expert on San Xavier—and award-winning photographer Edward McCain team up to bring us a comprehensive view of the mission as we’ve never seen it before. With 200 stunning full-color photographs and incisive text illuminating the religious, historical, and motivational context of these images, A Gift of Angels is a must-have for tourists, scholars, and other visitors to San Xavier.

From its glorious architecture all the way down to the finest details of its art, Mission San Xavier del Bac is indeed a gift of angels.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Weighing in at almost ten pounds, Fontana and McCain's effort promises to be comprehensive, and in some ways it is. The Mission, we learn, was first Jesuit, then Franciscan, was completed in 1797 on the Northern frontier of what was then New Spain and is now outside Tucson, and was built to evangelize the native people, the O'odham, who also provided most of the labor. There follows an overview of the structure and art on display, and a breakdown covering every painting and statue found inside. Fontana, an anthropologist who worships there, discusses each saint depicted in great depth. While not uninteresting, these mini-histories aren't specific to the Mission, and this, coupled with the fact that each artwork is discussed on its own rather than in context, makes it hard to get a sense of the place as a whole. Though the diagrams and photographs are lovely, readers may wish for a better sense of the spirit of the place people call The White Dove of the Desert and the Sistine Chapel of the New World. For that, perhaps, a pilgrimage is in order. 175 color photos.
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From the Publisher
"This remarkable inventory of the church's riches in art, down to the last detail of interior and facade, is splendidly recorded by photographer Edward McCain in addition to Fontana's informative text."
California Territorial Quarterly

“A symphony of words and images and a fitting homage to the early Southwest’s greatest architectural monument. This book is a stunning achievement.” —John P. Schaefer, former president of the University of Arizona and co-founder of the University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography

Library Journal
Rising up from the landscape like a "White Dove" against the Black Mountain just south of Tucson, AZ, the mission of San Xavier del Bac has entranced viewers since the 18th century. Fontana, archaeologist and church patron, provides a thorough art historical survey of the multitude of works within the building. Pictured in stunning photos, the works, most depicting angels and saints, are described and referenced to other similar works within and beyond the New World, immersing the reader in a veritable hagiography. Religious messages are revealed in a joyful plethora of Churrigueresque Baroque design and color. Fontana's tour of the building traces a pilgrim's steps from the facade through the sotocoro, baptistery, nave cupola, drum, crossing, sanctuary, east and west transepts, choir loft, and sacristy. Helpful sections of notes, references, and an index follow. VERDICT A treasure trove for art historians, students of Hispanic culture and Christian religion, and travelers to the Southwest.—Nadine Dalton Speidel, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L., Parma, OH

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780816528400
Publisher:
University of Arizona Press
Publication date:
09/20/2010
Series:
Southwest Center Series
Pages:
376
Sales rank:
1,026,408
Product dimensions:
12.25(w) x 14.30(h) x 1.56(d)

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