Sacred Heart/Cataldo Mission – Cataldo Idaho

My friend Mindy and I took a drive today (March 6, 2022) to Cataldo Mission, Idaho which is about a 40-minute drive from where we live in Post Falls, Idaho.

When we first arrived we went to the visitor center which is located at the bottom of the hill from the mission. We paid our $7.00 park entrance fee which gave us access to the Mission and the Parish House which is right next to it. We wandered around in the little gift shop and we both ended up only purchasing a few postcards. I like to buy postcards of places I go because the pictures are always just perfect in case mine turn out awful for some reason. We then sat through an 18-minute film that told the story of the Sacred Heart/Cataldo Mission which was very interesting. I really love that places like this have been restored by those who came before us so that we might still be able to enjoy them today.

In the early nineteenth century, the Coeur d’Alene Indians began to hear rumors of men in black robes who possessed special powers. Curiosity about these alleged powers inspired the tribe to invite the “black robes” to live amongst them. Jesuit missionaries arrived in the St. Joe River area in the early 1840s and built the St. Joe Mission in 1842. Due to seasonal flooding, the mission was abandoned and relocated near the Coeur d’Alene River and modern-day Cataldo, Idaho.

Father Antonio Ravalli modeled the mission after the cathedrals of his Italian homeland. Construction began in 1850 and three hundred Coeur d’Alene Indians and two missionaries built the ninety-foot-long, forty-foot-high, and forty-foot-wide building. The construction required creativity due to minimal building supplies. No nails were used, the chandeliers were made from old tin cans, and the walls were built by weaving grass and straw over a framework then solidifying it with river mud, a method known as waddle and daub. The blue coloring of the ceiling wood is not paint but a stain created by pressing local huckleberries into the wood.

When completed in 1853, the Mission of the Sacred Heart became an important stop for westward settlers, miners, traders, and religious seekers. The original goal of the mission was to serve as a reduction community, bringing Indians from nearby communities to one gathering place to focus on religion and the adoption of Jesuit agricultural practices. It also provided supplies and hospitality in this remote part of the West. By the 1870s, the mission and surrounding farm had grown to between eighty and one hundred acres and made full use of the Coeur d’Alene valley for grazing and cultivation.

In 1961 the Mission of the Sacred Heart was designated a National Historic Landmark, and in 1966 was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The mission is the oldest building in the state of Idaho and is now a part of Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission State Park. The park includes the Mission and the restored Parish house (which was burnt down in 1887), along with two cemeteries, nature trails, and a visitor center.

After the Parish house burnt down, it was rebuilt. It is a two-story building, the upstairs used for sleeping quarters, and the downstairs for daily activities. It contains a smaller chapel, mostly used for daily Mass.

In 1976, a major restoration of the church was chosen as Idaho State’s Bicentennial Project to celebrate the nation’s bicentennial.

A misnomer locally is to refer to the whole mission as the “Cataldo” Mission. This term cropped up in the area due to the fame of Father Giuseppe Cataldo, a Sicilian priest born in the village of Terrasini, who spent most of his life in the frontier community and founded Gonzaga University. The nearest town to the mission is Cataldo, Idaho.

The Parish House

Cemetery

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