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I-90 Exit 39 one mile east of Cataldo.

Old MissionThe Old Mission "rose like a miracle in an almost total wilderness where even log houses were rare..."

The Blackrobes
The Coeur d’Alene Indians were very spiritual and when they heard that a neighboring tribe had "medicine men" of great powers, they decided they wanted this magic for themselves. They sent out the word that the "Blackrobes," Jesuit priests, would be welcomed among their people. So in the early 1840s, Jesuit missionaries came to North Idaho.

In 1842, Father DeSmet responded to the Coeur d'Alenes' request and sent Father Point to help them establish a mission. The first Mission of the Sacred Heart was built along the St. Joe River, about 35 miles south of the present church. The mission was repeatedly flooded until 1846 when the St. Joe location was abandoned in favor of a high, grassy knoll overlooking the Coeur d’Alene River where the mission stands today.

Building the Mission
Father Ravalli joined the Coeur d'Alenes and began designing the new mission which was built between 1848 and 1853. This missionary, born in Italy, was an incredible man—artist, sculptor and physician as well as preacher of the gospel. His European training shines through in the structure of the mission and the decorations meant to duplicate the eloquence of European cathedrals.

The structure was built from large logs cut near the site, then latticed with saplings that were woven with grass and caked with mud. The process was called wattle and daub. The interior was decorated with handpainted newspapers Father Ravalli had received in the mail and cleverly recycled. Fabric purchased from the Hudson Bay Trading Post at Fort Walla Walla, Washington, became wall cloth to adorn the walls. Classic European chandeliers were copied in tin from used cans and gilded crosses were replicated in carved pine. Wooden altars were carefully painted and veined to resemble marble.

In 1865, the exterior siding and interior paneling were added, both fashioned from logs cut nearby and milled on the mission site. Find the DAT test prep you need here. The parish house adjacent to the mission was built in 1888.

The Mission Today
Today, Old Mission continues to have special meaning. It has sentimental and religious significance to the Coeur d’Alene Indians, who still consider it their mission and return each August 15 to celebrate the “Feast of the Assumption.” The park offers picnicking under tall trees, walking trails and a chance to explore the the oldest building in Idaho with its unique 18-inch-thick walls. Most of all, it gives us a chance to learn more about the colorful history of Idaho and the Coeur d’Alene Indians.

Location: Cataldo, ID (Exit 39 off I-90)
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 30, Cataldo, ID 83810
Phone: 208-682-3814
Fax: 208-682-4032


  1. What does Coeur d'Alene mean?
    - Heart of an Awl.
  2. How old is the Church?
    - Built between 1848 and 1853

Parks / Recreation / About Us
PO Box 83720 • Boise, ID 83720-0065 • 208-334-4199 • Questions? Ask Rick