Old Mission State Park
Old Mission State Park
Randall Chapman | August 14th, 2018 | Travel
Growing up in Southern California, like every other 4th grader, I had to do a mission project to help learn about the Spanish Missions that were built throughout what was once a territory of Spain. I did my project on the San Gabriel mission. When my older brother and I were doing our projects, my mom would take us to the different missions so we could take pictures and learn about the history of the mission. Of course, in 4th grade I didn’t really care all that much, but I still remember the experience.
The Old Mission State Park was smaller in scale and the architecture was much different but it was still a catholic mission designed by Italian Jesuit missionary Antonio Ravalli and built by the local Coeur d’Alene Natives. In the early 1800’s the natives of northern Idaho and western Montana heard of the White Man’s Book of Heaven and sought out the Men of the Black Robe to come learn more. In 1831 they sent 6 men east to St Louis and in 1842 Father Pierre-Jean De Smet responded to the request and came to the area. On his arrival he settled into some land along the St. Joe River, but was subject to flooding. In 1846 they moved it to the current location. Throughout the rest of the 1800’s the mission served as a way station for trappers and travelers as well as a church. The mission building is the oldest standing building in the state of Idaho.
I stopped by the mission as I was heading to visit my Aunt that lives just outside of Coeur d’ Alene Idaho. There is a visitor’s center that houses several Coeur d’ Alene Native articles in a museum, photos are not allowed at the request of the tribe. There was also a film that took about 20 min to watch and it gave the history of the mission and the local area. While the film was informative it looked like it was shot in the 1980’s on a betamax but if you get past that it was good.
It takes about an hour or two to tour the property and see everything, though the residence was closed for renovations while I was there so it might take longer with that. I started with the visitor’s center then made my way over to the Old Mission.
Along the way to the Old Mission you pass an old bell that used to be rung at sundown to let everyone know it was time to come worship. The original bell was taken long ago and the bell that is here now was donated with the description that is was taken from a mission in the Northwest, so it could be the original bell but no one will ever know for sure.
The mission its self is a beautifully constructed building using the Wattle and daub method where a latus is built then a sticky substance usually comprised of some combination of wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung and straw is plastered on to it. Not a single nail was used. As you walk in they have an audio track playing that fills the room with the music, chanting and sounds you would have heard during worship. The mission has been well preserved and has beautiful details in its architecture. The ceiling details are masterfully crafted as is the pulpit. I’m not a religious person but I appreciate fine craftsmanship and old church’s and missions are a place to find some of the most beautiful workings, the Old Mission is no exception.
After leaving the mission I walked to the west graveyard and followed the path that takes you past a marshland where I saw a moose grazing, He was too far away to get a good picture with my iPhone.
This was a beautiful place to visit both for its architecture but also its natural landscape. It has huge historical relevance for the area. If you find yourself in the area this is a must see.