Long before the Spanish settlers came to Arizona in the 1600's, the Paleo-Indians and the tribe known as Hohokam were once the main settlers. Comprised of native and religious sites, Tucson is a place to revitalize the spirit and shake up the soul. Here are some spiritual landmarks and places to visit while in Tucson.
A must visit while in Tucson, this national historic landmark is considered the finest example of Mexican Baroque architecture in the United States. Founded in 1692, this Mission is part of a series of missions founded by the Jesuit missionary, Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, who traveled throughout the southwest and parts of Mexico to spread Catholicism. Before the establishment of the Mission, the Tohono O'odham people lived, and still live nearby today. This active parish is an architectural wonder inside and out. Located across the parking lot is a climbable hill topped with a large cross.
It is common for pilgrims to visit today. The front of the church's exterior contains a large shell etched into the facade, above the doorway. This symbol is the same as seen in many churches in Spain welcoming pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago.
Part of the parish contains a museum and a shrine that keeps inexpensive lit prayer candles.
Located west of downtown is this public statue garden depicting some of the most prominent Christian scenes such as the crucifix and the Last Supper. The creator, Felix Lucero, was stationed in France during World War One. During his time abroad, he made a promise to dedicate the rest of his life creating religious work, which he kept his word.
Built in 1896, this Romanesque Revival Style church resides near Downtown Tucson. Open for services, the facade contains etchings of horned toad lizards, yucca and saguaro. Statues of the Mother Mary and Saint Augustine, the patron saint of Tucson, are found onsite. Once inside, it feels like a walk back through time in Europe, a moment where it's easy to forget that one is in Arizona.
St. Philips in the Hills Episcopal Church
Located near the foothills, this is another popular site for prayer, solitude and reflection. A once famous Tucson architect, Josias Joesler, designed this structure in 1936 showcasing the best of Spanish design. Besides services, the church hosts a variety of music events and concerts and also features an art gallery, memorial garden and labyrinth.
Located near Downton in Barrio Viejo, is El Tiradito, a quasi-spiritual and historical site. This site is dedicated to the steamy love affair between Juan Oliveras, a young recently married eighteen (18) year old Mexican Sheep Ranchers son in law, and his mother in law who was the wife of a very wealthy sheep rancher. Legend has it that he was a "sinner and a lover," and the shrine is dedicated to a "bad guy." The husband caught Juan and his wife making love in his bed and chased and axed down Juan, killing him in his own blood.
According to tusconmuseum.com, "The 'Curse of The Wishing Shrine' centers predominately on its visitors motives for their visit, and their own lives. It is said that if one visits with a clear open heart that forgives, they will pass, and they may even get their wish fulfilled. For others, it may just be the beginning of history repeating itself depending on what they themselves bring to the shrine. Also, it is said that if you light a candle at the shrine and it remains burning all night long without going out by sunrise, your wish may be granted depending on your motivations."
Canyon Ranch is an expensive luxury wellness resort that welcomes people to come and cleanse their soul. The grounds are only accessible by staff and hotel guests. I had the opportunity to tour Canyon Ranch with an employee and discovered all sorts of spiritual opportunities. The grounds feature various vortexes, or energy centers where one washes away negative spirits. Most vortexes are near the labelled rocks, with the Discovery vortex being the strongest. The walk around the grounds on the local trail is cleansing in itself, and through campus one discovers reflective ponds, meditative labyrinths, buddha statues and secluded quiet spaces.