Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Back into Time at Cataldo Mission

Cloudy days do not dampen my wonder lust.  In fact they provide a moody backdrop for a fall adventure.   So we head out for a little exploring without a specific destination in mind.  I would like to explore some area's for boondocking in the mountains East of Spokane.

As we are driving along the interstate a sign points the way to the Cataldo Mission in Northern Idaho.

I attended a wedding at the Mission before, but my Granddaughter hadn't ever been there.  I want to  honor her developing wondering spirit and encourage her to investigate all that life has to offer.  So off we went.

You see it from the interstate, sitting on a hill overlooking the tree studded valley that surrounds it.  Seeing it from the Interstate is not enough, you must experience it's simplicity and serenity by walking the grounds feeling the presence of those who walked this sacred place before us.

 In the Early 1880's the local Coeur d'Alene Indians had heard of these powerful "medicine men" in black robes with a book and wanted some of these men for their own tribe.They sent of their tribesmen east to St. Louis, and in 1842 Father Pierre-Jean De Smet responded to the request and came to the area.

 In 1850 the church was taken over by Antonio Ravalli, who began designing the new mission building. He made sure that the building was constructed by the Indians themselves, so that they could feel part of the church. It was built without using a single nail was finished in three years.

Example of newspaper wallpaper and can metalwork 

They had few materials to decorate the church, but used ingenious techniques to beautify it. The walls were decorated with fabric bought from the Hudson's Bay Company and hand-painted newspaper that Fr. Ravalli had received in the mail. Tin cans were used to create an idea of chandeliers.

The wooden statues were carved by hand with nothing but a knife. The blue coloring of the interior wood is not paint but a stain created by pressing local huckleberries into the wood.

When I had been at a wedding in this place a few years ago, we were in the main church but had not been able to explore the rest of the grounds.   I was so glad to have taken this opportunity to learn more about this historic place.


 The Parish House was built in 1888 and provided housing for, Priests, Jesuist Brothers who served in area missions, ans caretakers.

The parish house also contains a small chapel that was used by the residents.

Parish House Chapel

  Parish house
 living quarters

Mission Bell

Overlooking orchards and nearby hills

In time the mission became an important stop for traders, settlers, and miners.   It was also a working port for boats heading up the Coeur d'Alene River.

 In 1961 it was designated a National Historic Landmark, and in 1966 was put on the National Register of Historic Places and the Oldest Building in Idaho.

                                       A simple place,
                                                                             From a simple time. 


  1. Great tour. I was surprised to learn the Native Americans sent for a priest. Did it have an energy you could feel?

  2. What a beautiful, serene place. How nice to tour it with your granddaughter. :)

  3. What a nice place to visit and learn the history.
    I went back to read your last posts to catch up and I like the pictures with your new camera.