The Old Mission (Mission of the
Sacred Heart) is the oldest standing building in Idaho. Jesuits (Blackrobes)
arrived at the invitation of the Coeur d'Alenes in the early 1840's. The
first mission church was established on the St Joe River about 35 miles
south of the present site. Due to flooding, it was closed in 1846, and a new
mission church was begun on this site, which has always been sacred to the
natives of the area.
The Old Mission (built 1848-1853) was a combined effort of the
missionaries and over 300 native Catholics. Fr. Ravalli, an Italian born
Jesuit, designed the building to resemble the elegant cathedrals of his
homeland, using local materials. Wood was milled on the site, and wattle and
daub construction used to make the walls both durable and light. The
decorations of the interior illustrate both the piety of the workers and
their ingenuity. Chandeliers were constructed from old tin cans, the altar
was faux-painted to resemble marble.
Mission (Mission of the Sacred Heart) is the oldest standing building in
The Old Mission was the site of the council following the conflict with
Col. Steptoe, and also served
as headquarters for the Mullan Road crew.
In 1887, the mission itself was moved to DeSmet, Idaho, to the Coeur d'Alene
reservation. The building still stands, as a monument to the cooperation of
the Coeur d'Alene tribe and their missionaries. The mission sits on a
beautiful knoll, overlooking the Coeur d'Alene River. The mission and parish
house are open for tours, there are picnic grounds and walking paths with
unobtrusive interpretive speeches, a Visitor's center with a film show, and
two historical cemeteries.
(in Latin, Cathaldus or Cataldus).
About Father Pierre DeSmet: Built the original Cataldo Mission on
the St. Joe in 1842 just north of town. Flooding caused him to move the
Cataldo Mission of the Sacred Heart to the Coeur dí Alene River. He also
named the town of St. Maries (pronounced Saint Marys).
About Saint Cataldo:
Today the popularity of Saint Cathaldus in Southern Italy is equal to, if
not greater than, the popularity of St. Patrick in Ireland. Over one hundred
and fifty churches are dedicated to him in that country and the
Cathedral-Basilica in Taranto proudly bears his name. He is the Saint
Protector of Corato (Bari), of Gangi (Palermo) and of many other places. A
town in Sicily is called San Cataldo.
In 1071, during the reconstruction of the Basilica in Taranto, the tomb
of Cathaldus was discovered and opened. With his body was found a gold cross
bearing his name and the word Rathcau.