Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 14, 2007
Priest recycled tin cans to create statues
Fr. Antonio Ravalli improvised as he built his Idaho church in 1850
The Sacred Heart – June 15
By TED FITZGERALD
This boomtown Baroque face includes the remarkable Tuscan portico, its roof supported by six log pillars.
He began supervising construction of the church in 1850 and, unable to find familiar European building materials, proved to be a master of improvisation.
What is remarkable about the church, and what must have amazed all who saw it, was the fa‡ade, actually a false-front, a concession to pioneer Western designs. This boomtown Baroque face includes the remarkable Tuscan portico, its roof supported by six log pillars.
During his 16-year tenure at Sacred Heart, the ingenious pastor used recycled newspapers and tin cans to replicate the interior d‚cor of a European church and adorned altars with imitation gold trim and faux-marble fronts.
Then, in 1877 the people lost their parish church when they were moved by the U.S. government to a reservation to the south where, at a site named DeSmet, a new church was built to serve the faithful Coeur d'Alenes.
The Cataldo site became headquarters for the superior of the Rocky Mountain Jesuit Missions, Father Joseph Cataldo who had worked in the area of the Coeur d'Alenes since 1865.
A period of stagnation followed, with several attempts at preserving the buildings until in 1961 when the site was designated a National Historic Landmark. After it was named an Idaho State Park in 1975, restoration of the remaining buildings and grounds began..
Inside, the old church and priest's house look much as they did in Ravalli's day. Many examples of his work remain in the form of hand-crafted altars, tabernacles, statues and paintings as testimonials to this most dedicated pastor.
Visitors leaving Sacred Heart usually can't resist a last stop for another photo of the curious little church reflected in the placid river of the Coeur d'Alenes.
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