The church with the sun behind
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, etc.
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.
Three events occur annually:
1) 2nd Sunday of July- Historic Skills Fair, where costumed participants demonstrate pioneer crafts, and fiddlers play
2) Aug 15- The Feast of the Assumption Pilgrimage by the Coeur d'Alene Indians
3) Third weekend in August- Annual Mountain Man Rendezvous.
Hours for the park are: 9-5 Year round (8-6 June- August) There is a $3 per vehicle fee.
Idaho State Parks
I-90 24 miles east of Coeur d'Alene, take Exit 39. For more info, contact Old Mission State Park, PO Box 30, Cataldo, ID, 83810-0030 or 208-682-3814