Tuesday, March 8, 2011

     It was in 1863 that the Idaho territory was birthed at which time Cataldo Mission had been well established for a ten year period. Pioneers Jesuit priests and brothers had coordinated the building process over a span of several years time. The Cataldo Mission is said to be a reflection of phenomenal Jesuit skill and exceptional training. The reason being is that all these Jesuit pioneers had to work with was a few simple tools and lay Amerindian labor. One of the major distinctions of the Cataldo Mission is how they managed to build such an awesome structure under the conditions of the time and equipped with the simple tools they had to work with. [1] Cataldo Mission is infamously known as the oldest building in the state of Idaho yet boasts an elegance modeled under a Greek Revival architectural style. Relative to the times and what Jesuit founders were working with the structure is an absolute phenomenon and still stands today very much in tact.

"Today's residents marvel that such an edifice could be built under the existing conditions."[2]

     Details of the architectural structure include uprights which are 18 square inches, and rafters that are 10 square inches each carved with a simple whipsaw and shaped by hand and board axe. The Cataldo Mission is 90 feet long by 40 feet wide with a height of 30 feet. The generous lumber was taken from nearby forests while rocks were carried long distances for creation of the foundation. Amerindian lay labor hauled these rocks from afar to lay the foundation for Cataldo Mission. There were no nails used as they were not readily available at the time. Instead of nails wooden pegs were inserted into bored holes.[3] The huge forested terrain was an advantage giving the builders a generous supply of lumber. The Jesuit pioneers took advantage of the tremendous local timber supply and created a marvelous structure.

"Huge timbers were cut for the floor, six large columns to support the roof of the porch were placed in pedestals and steps leading to the porch were split logs hewed from large trees."[4]

     Amerindians worked together with Jesuit pioneers using enormous hand-hewn logs. These enormous logs were taken from nearby forests, latticed with saplings, woven with grass and caked with mud. This wattle and daub method was used as the builders created a mission without using any nails in the process. The walls for the Cataldo Mission were built more than a foot in thickness. The architect Father Ravalli hand painted newspaper and used it to decor the interior walls of the mission. Other decor for the interior walls consisted of fabric that was supplied by the Hudson Bay Company in Fort Walla Walla. Empty tin cans were used to create synthetic European chandeliers, and local pinewood was carved to create gilded crosses. The alters were made from wood and painted with veins to create a synthetic marble alter. Settlers, miners, and militia used Cataldo Mission as a supply station and place of refuge. The mission was a farm and also a small port on the Coeur d' Alene River. Miners, railroad employees, and pipeline workers traveled by boat on the Coeur d' Alene River stopping in at the Cataldo Mission as a small port.[5]

     Modern Amerindian reservation families consider Cataldo Mission and surrounding geographical region to be their ancestral homeland. In late summer every year Coeur d' Alene Amerindian tribal members make a trip and congregate at the Cataldo Mission region. It is here that the annual Feast of the Assumption is held by the Coeur d' Alene Amerindian tribe. Cataldo Mission was included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1963. It was in 1962 that Cataldo Mission became a National Historic Landmark. Cataldo Mission became a state historic site and park in 1975. Cataldo Mission also known as Old Mission State Park or Sacred Heart Mission stands today as the original mission building created in 1853. The parishioners quarters was created in 1887 and is an integral part of Cataldo Mission. Also at Cataldo Mission is a modern visitors center of 9,000 square feet in diameter. Inside of the visitors center are interpretive displays giving the history of Cataldo Mission.[6] Present day Cataldo Mission is widely known and accessible for tourists.

     There are plans for development at the Cataldo Mission historical landmark. A non-profit organization has been working with Coeur d' Alene Amerindians, state parks and recreation, and the local community. It was this non-profit organization that developed the visitor center and other upgrades. The name of this agency who is actively involved in the development of Cataldo Mission is the Association for Sacred Encounters. A new exhibit called Sacred Encounters will be displayed in 2011. It is said to be an exemplary exhibit displaying the work of Father De Smet among Amerindians in the Rocky Mountain area.[7] The 9,000 square foot visitors center was just recently created by the Sacred Encounters agency. They are actively working to develop Cataldo Mission as a historical landmark and state park. The Sacred Encounters exhibit will be displayed in 2011 and is said to be an award winning exhibition.


[1] Ruralnorthwest.com, Cataldo Mission is older than Idaho, Coeur d' Alene Press, Centennial Edition, 1963. Pg 3 Found at: http://www.ruralnorthwest.com/artman/publish/article_4542.shtml

[2] Ruralnorthwest.com

[3] Ruralnorthwest.com

[4] Ruralnorthwest.com

[5] State of Idaho Parks and Recreation, Coeur d' Alene's Oldm Mission State Park Found at: http://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/parks/oldmission.aspx

[6] State of Idaho Parks and Recreation

[7] Sate of Idaho Parks and Recreation