Father Antonio Ravalli looked to Europe for the Cataldo mission's design.
The early American West meets Greek revival architecture on a quiet hill near Cataldo, Idaho, in the Sacred Heart Mission church. Finished in 1853, the church was the site of myriad near miracles by Jesuit priest Antonio Ravalli and members of the Coeur d’Alene tribe, who raised giant timbers with block-and-tackle pulleys, whittled pegs to use in place of nails, and transformed tin cans and local woods into religious decoration. The church is the state’s oldest standing building and one of its most beautiful.
Quanah Matheson, culture director for the Coeur d’Alene tribe, admits the mission evokes mixed feelings among its builders’ descendants. “It’s part of our tradition,” he says. “Anyone can see the beauty of it. But with it came the loss of our land and culture.” The tribe still owns the mission.
Along with a parish house and visitor center, the church is now part of Old Mission State Park, open every day but Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. Hours vary; call before going. (208) 682-3814, parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/parks.
Photography by Gary Smith/Idaho Stock Images
This article was published in July 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.