St. Francis Xavier Church

Missoula Downtown Historic District

Jesuits arrived in the Missoula Valley in 1841 en route to the Bitterroot, where they established the first Catholic mission in the Rocky Mountains. In 1873, they opened a chapel in Missoula, building the first St. Francis Xavier Church in 1881. Father Diomedi, S.J.—who oversaw many major building projects during his career—arrived at St. Francis Xavier in 1888. Described as the sort of man “who sows in whirlwinds and reaps in tornados,” he quickly recognized the need for a larger church. Father Diomedi hired a Portland architect, Mr. Blanchard, to furnish the plans and Missoula contractor Patrick Walsh to oversee construction. Designed to hold 600 people in the sanctuary and another 150 in the choir loft, the 1892 brick edifice was then Montana’s largest church. The cruciform church reflects the Romanesque Revival style, displaying semicircular arches over windows and doors, miniature arches along the eaveline, small buttresses, and a soaring bell tower. The Romanesque Revival style provides large interior expanses, making it particularly suitable for murals. Jesuit lay brother Joseph Carignano (1853-1919), who also painted the frescoes at St. Ignatius Mission, decorated the interior. Painters of the Italian Renaissance greatly influenced the Turin, Italy, native, who employed many of the same devices used by early Renaissance artists: feathery trees, oval female faces, classical costumes, and painted pilasters. Decorative stained glass, a magnificent pipe organ, and a 2,270 pound church bell, dedicated to Jesuit missionary Father Lawrence Palladino, complete the interior.



410 West Pine Street, Missoula, Montana ~ Private