Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cataldo Mission

After a week of hard work, we had a beautiful, sunny day to go sight-seeing. My first choice was the Cataldo Mission State Park. If you know Mr. Keith, he likes to go anywhere using back roads. Before we drove into the Mission, which is the oldest building in Idaho, we explored the very small town of Cataldo, and found this lovely photo opportunity up a gravel road. This is a Mennonite Church, reflected beautifully in a pond made by the overflow of the Coeur d'Alene River.

I first visited this site many years ago and have always been fascinated by its story.
In the early part of the 19th century, Coeur d'Alene Indians heard of a neighboring tribe who had powerful medicine men in black robes. Wanting this power themselves, they traveled the long journey east to St. Louis, inviting the "black robes" (Jesuit priests) to live among them. Father DeSmet, and soon Father Ravalli, came and established the mission with the help of the Indians, who did the labor to construct the mission, from 1850-1853. Many became Christians and lived at this site for years. I've always been amazed at how these two priests got around! Many places in Montana also bear their names, for instance, St. Mary's Mission in Stevensville, Montana, the oldest building in Montana, and St. Ignacius Mission on the road to Glacier Park.

The complex sits on a hill right above the Coeur d'Alene River and is beautifully landscaped and preserved. The Parrish House, to the left, has also been restored and is fun to tour. The history of the association and co-operation between the Indians and the Jesuit priests is fascinating. There were no wars fought here!

Father Ravalli must have been a genius, multi-talented and vastly educated. He designed and supervised the building, hand-carved the altar and much of the furnishings, and even painted the art-work. "The Mission of the Sacred Heart was constructed using a technique called "wattle and daub" which involved using large hand-hewn logs latticed with saplings, woven with grass and caked with mud. The resulting walls are up to a foot thick and built without a single nail. The limited materials were used ingeniously to decorate the church. The walls were covered with fabric and painted newspaper, creating the illusion of wallpaper. The main wooden altar was painted to resemble marble; tin cans were shaped to create chandeliers. The blue color of the interior wood is not paint, but a stain made of huckleberries."
Beautiful and amazing!

As we stood at the back of the mission complex and looked over the hill we were treated to this lovely picture, the swollen Coeur d'Alene River surrounded by trees just beginning to leaf out, with the snow covered hills in the background. There were wildflowers popping out all over, a warm breeze, sunshine, and a great feeling of God's presence in this place!


Forry and Char said...

It is a lovely place, isn't it? We've always wanted to go there when they have the annual "homecoming" when the tribes come to celebrate. We always seemed to hear about it after it was over...

Jorge and Evielynne's RV Road Adventures said...

We head for Idaho tomorrow for our summer work - we can't wait!! We will be there for 5 months... Hope to see your blog in person for sure!!