National Geographic : 1995 Dec
Highly decorated areas with dates of restoration A. Sanctuary with altarpiece (1995-96) B. Crossing with dome (1994) C. Nave with oval vaults (1995-96) D. Choir loft (1995-97) E. West chapel (1993) F. East chapel (1992) I 1. Museum 2. Sacristy 3. Cloister * In 1692, when southern Arizona lay along the northern rim of New Spain, Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit missionary explorer, arrived at the Indian farming village of Bac. The people seemed open to con version, so Father Kino found ed a mission that he named for San Francisco Xavier, an earlier Jesuit missionary famed for travels in Asia. In the late 1770s Franciscan fathers began building the present church on a cruciform plan (left), borrowing 7,000 silver pesos from a local rancher. Artists, likely from Quer6 taro, north of Mexico City, worked with Indian laborers to sculpt and paint the extraordi nary interior. Two hundred years later the ornate altarpiece at its heart is undergoing restoration (facing page). Conservators spend days on each figure. On the scaffold's top level, Paola Zari Pulieri (below) ren ders first aid to God, modeled in plaster over brick. She re attaches every loose flake of paint with a glue-filled syringe. Where no color survives, she tones down the underlying white plaster with a neutral watercolor wash. Cleaning a seated figure with sheep on the arch over the altar-thought to be Christ, the Good Shepherd-led to a reve lation: What had seemed to be a beard was in truth a woman's scarf; this was the Divine Shep herdess, the Virgin.