On the stunning façade above the ornate door of Mission San Xavier del Bac, a stone-carved cat, its sharpest details rounded down by years of wind and desert rain, crouches, ready to attack the mouse on the other side of the grand entryway. Legend says that when the cat finally eats, the world will end.
Nicknamed the “White Dove of the Desert” and listed as a National Historic Landmark, the mission is still an active church. It has been abandoned, survived an earthquake, and most impressively withstood both the ravages of the time and the encroachment of the modern world. It stands as a striking beacon in the Sonoran Desert, at what the Spaniards who built it considered the very edge of the known world.