Idaho’s Oldest Building Remains an Active Church
It’s in the middle of a state park, east of Coeur d’Alene and off Interstate 90. The Roman Catholic mission church in Cataldo is believed to be the oldest standing building in Idaho. The mission is still an active church, with occasional masses still taking place. It remains church property but is leased to the park’s department.
A Belgian missionary first converted some members of the Coeur d’Alene tribe 180 years ago. It was another 11 years before the current church was completed. Some earlier buildings didn’t survive the elements. For many years, the current church brought together the tribe for major events that in some ways resembled a large family reunion.
I toured the neighboring museum. Cameras are not allowed to be used inside (if you try, you’ll be escorted out) but the exhibits are wonderful. One features a quote from a tribal leader that made me laugh. He explained the locals believed the missionaries would stay for a couple of weeks and then be gone. The tribe never expected the priests would stay. Some tribal members were baptized because they were convinced it would convey the ability to conjure magic.
Keep in mind, if you’re planning a trip from southern Idaho, you should plan to overnight in the area. It’s a day’s drive from Twin Falls. Also, if you have a disability, be prepared to walk a bit uphill. When I was there, parking was in a field and some distance from the church. I was huffing and puffing when I walked inside. It was worth the effort. I found a seat in the big empty sanctuary and regained my breath as I prayed.