The mission was founded in 1699 by the Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino, who often visited and preached in the area. The original mission church, located about two miles (3 km) away, was vulnerable to Apache attacks who finally destroyed it in about 1770. Charles III of Spain banned all Jesuits from Spanish lands in the Americas in 1767 because of his distrust of the Jesuits. From this time on, San Xavier mission was led by the more pliable and "reliable" Franciscans. The present building was constructed under the direction of Franciscan Fathers Juan Bautista Velderrain and Juan Bautista Llorenz mainly with native labor working from 1783-1797 with a loan of 7,000 pesos and serves the Catholics of the San Xavier District of Tohono O'odham Nation. Alone of the Spanish missions in Arizona, San Xavier is still actively served by Franciscans, and still serves the Native community by which it was built.
The watercolor portraits and statuary were restored a decade ago by a team including some of the world's top art conservators.
In all, 300 angels and more than 100 saints are represented in water colors, sculpture or bas relief highlighted in a profusion of gold and silver leaf.
I visited this church several years ago. It doesn't compare to the Sistine Chapel or even a typical cathedral, but it's probably the best of the mission churches I've seen. It's definitely worth a look if you're in the Tucson area.