Mission San Xavier del Bac Named to Prestigious WMF 2016 World Monuments Watch

Goal is international attention for 50 cultural heritage sites named to Watch

Miles Green, Executive Director, The Patronato | (520) 407-6130 | info@patronatosanxavier.org

Daniela Stigh, Communications Director, World Monuments Fund | 646-424-9582 | dstigh@wmf.org | www.wmf.org

(Tucson, Ariz.) November 10, 2015—Mission San Xavier del Bac recently was named to the prestigious World Monuments Fund (WMF) 2016 World Monuments Watch. The list—50 cultural heritage sites in 36 countries for 2016—is announced biennially to highlight historical sites at risk from the forces of nature and the impact of social, political and economic change. WMF has announced the list for 20 years.

“We are thrilled to be in the global spotlight,” said Patronato Executive Director Miles Green. “The Mission is a world treasure and we are in extraordinary international company as a member of the 2016 Watch.”

“Inclusion of the mission in WMF’s Watch is quite an honor,” said Chuck Albanese, President, Patronato San Xavier Board of Directors. “This could not come at a better time, as we’re in the middle of a capital campaign to raise the needed dollars to restore the East Tower of the Mission and to build an endowment that will help with the Mission’s upkeep in the years to come.” Albanese, on behalf of the Patronato, nominated the Mission for inclusion on the 2016 list.

Renewed efforts to restore the East Tower of Mission San Xavier del Bac began in early 2015. The tower is showing serious signs of deterioration, with brick fragment and stucco crumbling in places. Workers have stabilized the tower so that it does not present any danger to people coming to the mission. If left unrepaired for much longer, however, the risk of damage to the priceless interior artwork will grow and become prohibitively more expensive to fix.

Tax-deductible gifts can be made securely online or by mail: Patronato San Xavier, P.O. Box 31702, Tucson, AZ 85751

More about the 2016 World Monuments Watch

The sites on the 2016 list are emblematic of preservation issues that are prevalent around the globe. From conflict to development pressures, and from natural disasters to the lack of resources, the Watch is a call to action that brings the fragility of these sites and the dangers they face to international attention. It also identifies opportunities for local communities to work together with preservation agencies, governments, corporate sponsors, and others to help ensure each site’s future.

WMF President Emerita Bonnie Burnham said, “The 2016 Watch includes many extraordinary places that deserve to be celebrated because they represent high moments of human culture. Worldwide concern would strengthen our ability to save them. Every two-year Watch cycle expands our knowledge about the state of the built environment worldwide, and the current challenges facing the preservation field. WMF looks forward to working with the local experts, organizations, and government agencies who have nominated these sites. We hope our endorsement will advance their goals to save each of these cherished places.

WMF’s decision to add Mission San Xavier del Bac to the list stems from ongoing efforts at the Mission to reverse the effects of many inappropriate repairs over the years, which will help to preserve the architectural, artistic, and cultural significance of this site, which remains an important parish church for the Tohono O’odham people residing in the surrounding area.


Patronato San Xavier is a nonsectarian, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization founded by Southern Arizona community leaders in 1978. The Patronato’s only purpose is to promote the restoration, maintenance and preservation of Mission San Xavier del Bac, a National Historic Landmark since 1963. In 2011, the Patronato began offering visitors free docent-led tours for the first time in the Mission’s 218-year history. Docents are community volunteers trained in the history, architecture, and culture of the Mission and its surroundings. Forty-five minute tours are available four times a day, every day except Sunday.

The exterior restoration began in 1988 with the rehabilitation of the roof and continued with the walls of the main church, the repair and conservation of the West Tower and more recently the Sacristy Arcade on the west side of the church courtyard. Restoration follows guidelines set by the United States Secretary of the Interior, with regular consultation with the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office. Original features are repaired where possible, rather than replaced. Where the original fabric has deteriorated beyond repair–a point that has a different definition for each material –the deteriorated element is replicated using authentic and compatible materials, based on documentary evidence.

Interior renovation began in 1992, when the Patronato hired Guggenheim conservator Paul Schwartzbaum who put together a team of international art conservators to preserve and clean the church interior.  The team spent six seasons conserving the wall paintings and sculpture throughout the church interior. Since 2002, Tim Lewis, a member of Tohono O’odham community of Wa:k, and his wife Matilde Rubio–both of whom had roles on the Schwartzbaum team–have continued the work to preserve San Xavier’s priceless interior.