Church of the Sacred Heart 2004

Replica of Cataldo Mission. redwood, acrylic. 23" x 29" x 12". 2004

Church of the Sacred Heart, Cataldo Mission, Idaho.  1853

Besides being the oldest standing building in Idaho, Sacred Heart Mission is also one of the most unique historic churches in the West. In 1850 Father Antonio Ravalli, an Italian born Jesuit, began designing the Greek revival style church. From detailed plans, he used local resources, simple tools, and the untrained labor of the Coeur d’Alene Indians to construct this magnificent structure. He felt it was very important that the indigenous people feel a part of the church. The feature that Ravalli carried into the Cataldo Mission is the false gable that is baroque in character, curving lines in the gable so that it disguises the true shape of the building and makes it look something much more dramatic. The classical columns across the front are made of single tree trunks. That’s another feature you will find in Roman buildings as well as Greek. A most wonderful feature of the Cataldo Mission is that it is decorated in the interior with Ravalli’s own personal handiwork. There’s Ravalli’s woodcarving, his sculpture, his scroll-sawed decoration on the ceiling, and even a couple of oil paintings. He was a most remarkable man. I was inspired to create the mission after seeing the Lambert Florin photo in his 1963 book “ Ghost Town Album”. This is the first piece in which I was aided by diagrams acquired from The Historic American Building Survey (HABS) through the Library of Congress. A site visit also allowed me to take measurements and appreciate the little intricacies, which stand out in this large façade. The sunburst window and hand turned urns on the upper portion posed quite a challenge, along with the large pedestals and giant columns supporting the entablature. Like the building it leads up to, the entry stairway is impressive, built with large timbers and joined with mortised corners.

photo by Lambert Florin from his 1963 book "Ghost Town Album"

from Historical American Building Survey diagrams

Additional information

  • History; 123
  • Video
  • Video describing the original building techniques used to construct the church
  • Old Mission State Park (official )





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