The Story of the Cataldo Mission Landscape Medallion

Detective work uncovers unique history of Idaho’s oldest building

Among all the thousands of square feet of 19th century murals and frescoes that adorn the U.S. Capitol, only one small landscape shows a building that still exists — and it’s located in Idaho.

The image of the Old Mission in Cataldo can be found on the first floor of the Senate wing, in the famous Brumidi Corridors, which have been called “some of the most artistically ornate and creatively decorated hallways in the nation.”

Also known as the Mission of the Sacred Heart, the Old Mission was constructed by Catholic missionaries and members of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe between 1850 and 1853. It is the oldest building in Idaho.

How its likeness came to occupy such a central location in the Senate, where members and visitors would walk past it every day, is a story that reflects the interests and ambitions of a young nation, as well as efforts to identify the first transcontinental railway route.

Read more from Lewiston Tribune reporter Bill Spence's account of the Cataldo Mission Landscape Medallion in the U.S. Capitol

Read more here:

Constantino Brumidi -Photograph by Mathew Brady, ca. 1866 [Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division]

Coeur D’Alene Mission, St. Ignatius River, Lithograph from The Pacific Railroad Report, Volume 12, 1859 [Office of Senate Curator]
Mural in U.S. Capitol by Constantino Brumidi, ca. 1861 [Architect of the Capitol]
Self-Portrait (inscribed on reverse “My Previous Home”), By John Mix Stanley [National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution]
General Isaac I. Stevens, Photograph by Timothy O’Sullivan, 1862 [Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division]

Charles Ayer Whipple in 1919 retouching a Brumidi landscape medallion at the U.S. Capitol.