The first thought I had when I walked into San Xavier del Bac was that it looked very familiar. However, due to my nonexistent knowledge of the Tohono O’odham before this trip, it obviously was not due to some prior experience with the church. The comparison I actually was making was to the Asam Church, also known as St. Johann Nepomuk, in Munich, Germany.
While I at first dismissed this comparison, I realized that these two churches were actually constructed with the same century as well, with the Asam Church completed in 1733 and San Xavier del Bac started in 1783 and completed in 1797. However, most people would not say that the San Xavier del Bac church would be aligned with a building in Germany that exemplifies the height of highly decorative Rococo architecture in the area. To my eye, however, many similarities can be drawn. From the heavy use of gold to accent the altar, especially the main altarpiece, to the overall crowded visual effect, the buildings evoke a very similar feeling of the opulence of the heavens through intense sensual overload.
Contrary to my experience with San Xavier del Bac, I was somewhat horrified by the incredible busyness and cluttered appearance of the Asam Church when I first saw a picture of it. However, now that I have experienced San Xavier del Bac, I believe that I might have a different reaction to the Asam Church if I ever see it in person. Walking into San Xavier del Bac instantly soothed me and it tempted me to sit down , not just because it offered a break from the shade. Rather than being overwhelmed and somewhat disgusted by the incredible detail of the design, I was enraptured and happily sat there simply taking in the church. Although I don’t know to what extent these two buildings could actually being connected with respect to the origin of their designs, I now appreciate the approach of both churches as they seek to inspire spiritual awe and devotion.