Tubac Presidio Locator Map

Elevation 3,500 feet   Fees

Contact the Park:
(520) 398-2252
Tubac Presidio SHP
One Burruel Street
Tubac, AZ 85646-1296


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Nearest Services: 1 mile

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Park's Speed Code: 4245#


Park Entrance Fees:
Adult (14+): $5.00
Youth (7–13): $2.00
Child (0–6): FREE

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Tubac Historical Society

Feature StoryRestoration of an 18th Century Statue

by Michael Freisinger, Arizona State Parks Museum Curator

On exhibit at Tubac Presidio State Historic Park is an 18th century Jesuit Santo of St. Francis Xavier. Saint Francis Xavier (San Francisco Xavier) [1506-1552] is considered the greatest missionary among the Jesuits and was named by Pope Pius X as the official patron of foreign missions.

This four and one half foot tall Santo was hand crafted sometime before 1767 AD at the time of the Spanish Inquisition that expelled the Jesuits from the New World. The statue was acquired near Tubac from a local trading post in the 1960s. The left pictures show the statue before the restoration work and the pictures on the right show the statue after the restoration work.

Statue before restoration Statue after restoration

It is suspect the statue was used at one of the local missions, although no records have been found to verify this assumption. The figure is most likely constructed from cypress wood planks. The joints between the boards have been covered with linen and numerous layers of gesso (a plaster prepared with glue) that have been applied over the wood and cloth. Paint and gold leaf were added and the hands and face were painted using incarnacion techniques. The now missing eyes were originally of blown glass with fringes of horsehair placed along the lids to replicate eyewinkers. The Santo was most likely crafted in Central Mexico and hauled overland by cart to the Primeria Alto (Northern Mexico).

Statue before restoration Statue after restorationIn January of 1995 funding was made available to stabilize and restore this significant statue due to the poor condition and deterioration. Gloria Giffords, an art conservator from Tucson, was contracted to assess the statue's condition. She also made recommendations and carried out the meticulous process of stabilizing and restoring the St. Francis Xavier Santo. The first task of the conservator was to insure that the loose gesso, linen and paint were reattached and that each centimeter of the statue was carefully examined and cleaned.

The conservation efforts clearly show the extent of restoration in the above before and after photographs. This unique Santo of St. Francis Xavier is now preserved and is on permanent display in the Tubac Presido State Historic Park museum. It will continue to greet visitors for many years to come.

See List of other Feature Stories (Index)

The views, conclusions, findings and opinions expressed in this Feature Story are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Arizona State Parks, the Arizona State Parks Board, or the government of Arizona.


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