Sacred Heart Mission, Cataldo

The Mission of the Sacred Heart (also known as the Cataldo Mission or Old Mission) was built in 1853 by the combined efforts of Catholic missionaries and members of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. It is the oldest standing building in Idaho and the oldest existing mission in the Pacific Northwest.


History of the Sacred Heart Mission

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.

The first mission, named the Mission of St. Joe, was built along the St. Joe River in 1842. Due to frequent flooding, the St. Joe Mission was abandoned four years later in favor of a better location. The site for the new mission, the Mission of the Sacred Heart, was atop a grassy hill along the Coeur d'Alene River, its present location.

The new mission building was designed by Father Antonio Ravalli, a native Italian. He designed the Mission to resemble the beautiful cathedrals of his homeland. Construction began in 1850. The Indians and Jesuits worked together, completing the building in 1853.

The Sacred Heart Mission served as a primary place of worship for the Coeur d'Alene tribe for over a decade. It became an important supply station and place of hospitality for settlers and travelers moving into the Pacific Northwest.

In 1961 the site was designated a National Historic Landmark. In 1966 it was put on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1975, the Mission and its surrounding 18 acres were designated as a state park.

What to See at the Sacred Heart Mission

The mission complex includes the church (1853), a parish house (1887), and two historic cemeteries. The visitor's center includes an interpretive exhibit about the history of the Mission, the Coeur d'Alene Tribe and surrounding region. An audio tour is available.

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.

Festivals and Events

Coeur d'Alene tribe members make an annual pilgrimage on August 15 to observe the Feast of the Assumption, setting up teepees on the surrounding Mission grounds.

Quick Facts on the Sacred Heart Mission

Site Information
Names:Cataldo Mission · Mission of the Sacred Heart · Old Mission State Park · Sacred Heart Mission
Categories:churches; missions
Faiths:Jesuit order
Dedication: Sacred Heart
Status: museum
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:47.548664° N, 116.358207° W
Address:Box 30
Cataldo, Idaho
Email:contact form
Hours:Daily 9am to 5pm
Lodging:View hotels near the Sacred Heart Mission
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

More Information

Exterior view of the mission church from northwest. The Sacred Heart Mission near Coeur d'Alene was built... © Holly Hayes
West side of the mission church. The Sacred Heart Mission near Coeur d'Alene was built 1850-53 by Jesuit... © Holly Hayes
Exterior view of the mission church from south, with the blue Parish House visible on the right. The Sacred... © Holly Hayes
Interior of the mission church, looking south to the altar. The Sacred Heart Mission near Coeur d'Alene was... © Holly Hayes
Main altar in the church of the Sacred Heart Mission near Coeur d'Alene, built 1850-53 by Jesuit missionaries... © Holly Hayes
Parlor room of the Parish House, rebuilt in 1887 after a fire destroyed the original. The Sacred Heart Mission... © Holly Hayes
Chapel in the Parish House, rebuilt in 1887 after a fire destroyed the original. The chapel was used for daily... © Holly Hayes

Map of the Sacred Heart Mission, Cataldo

Below is a location map and aerial view of the Sacred Heart Mission. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.