Cataldo Mission

Cataldo Mission

Location: Cataldo, Idaho. 24 miles east of Coeur d Alene off Interstate 90.

History: The Old Mission (Mission of the Sacred Heart) is the oldest standing building in Idaho. Jesuits established it in the early 1840s, at the invitation of the Coeur d Alene Indians. The first Mission was established on the St. Joe River, by Father Point. Because of its location, it was repeatedly flooded. So in 1846, the Mission was relocated to a grassy knoll, about 35 miles away. Construction of the Old Mission (at its new location) began in 1848 in a joint effort between the missionaries and native Catholics. Construction on the Mission was completed in 1853.

Interesting Facts: Father Ravalli, a Jesuit born in Italy, designed the building in the tradition of the grand cathedrals of his birthplace. Ravalli was a Renaissance man. He built the mission from sophisticated plans, using simple tools and untrained labor. The dome of the mission was one of several elements that created a grandeur and elegance reminiscent of the churches of Europe. Fabric from the Hudson Bay Trading Post, purchased at Fort Walla Walla, was used on the interior walls. Chandeliers, designed to replicate those found in the grand cathedrals of Italy, were fashioned out of used tin cans. Wooden altars were painted and treated to resemble marble. In 1865, exterior siding and interior paneling, both made from local materials, were added to the building.

Massive hewed beams are mortised and tenoned and all structural members are secured by wooden pegs. Holes were drilled in upright timbers and rafters, horizontal dowels were inserted between the uprights. The building was built using large logs cut at the site, then latticed with saplings that were woven with grass and caked with mud. The process was called wattle and daub.

The only tools Ravalli had were broad axe, auger, ropes and pulleys, a pen knife and an improvised whip saw.

Statistics: Fashioned in the architectural style known in America as Greek Revival, the building is 90 by 40 on a 4 wide foundation. The walls are nearly a foot thick, but hollow inside.

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