Saturday, September 30, 2023


Near Glacier National Park — Montana’s St. Ignatius Mission, historic art

St. Ignatius Mission.

If you are traveling anywhere near Glacier National Park in northwest Montana this RVing season, plan a short cultural stop in the small town of St. Ignatius, about 50 miles north of Missoula, on Hwy 93.

The community of St. Ignatius, currently on the Flathead Indian Reservation, dates back to the mid-1800s when Jesuit missionaries founded St. Ignatius Mission.

By the early 1890s, Indian peoples and missionaries began construction on the building using local materials. The “million bricks were made with local clay, the lumber was cut in nearby foothills, and the striking interior murals” were created by the mission’s handyman … and extremely gifted amateur painter.
These incredible frescoes are 58 compelling reasons to pull off the highway.

58 frescos decorate inside of Mission.

“Brother Joseph Carignano (1853-1919), an Italian Jesuit who was the cook at the mission for many years, painted 58 frescoes on the walls and ceiling of the church, despite no formal art training and only being able to work on the murals in between his regular jobs,” wrote Jan Krause in the Lake Shore Country Journal out of Big Fork, Mont.

“The frescos depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, as well as portraits of several saints. Behind the main altar is a triptych of the three visions of St. Ignatius Loyola, and above that a mural of the Last Judgement. Pictures of Mary and Joseph adorn the side altars. These vibrant paintings throughout the church are awe-inspiring, appearing as fresh as if they had been painted yesterday.”

In addition, there are two very special paintings of the Salish Lord and Lord’s mother (in Native American form) located in the back of the mission. The grounds also feature a log cabin, now a museum, which was the original residence for the Sisters of Providence when they first arrived in the 1860s to start the girls’ boarding school.
The Mission Mountain Range is a beautiful backdrop to this “historically interesting” and “artistically dramatic” mission church.

Contact Information:
St. Ignatius Mission
300 Bear Track Ave.
PO Box 667
St Ignatius, MT 59865
Phone: (406) 745-2768
Hours: Daily 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. in the summer; 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. in the winter; Sunday Mass – 9:15 a.m.

Admission: Free, donations accepted.
Directions: Approximately 50 miles north of Missoula, just 2 blocks off Hwy 93 in St. Ignatius. Signs are on the highway, and the mission can be seen from Hwy 93.
Photos: St. Ignatius Mission; interior view with frescoes painted by Brother Josepha Carignano. Courtesy: St. Ignatius Mission. (Bottom) Statue of St. Ignatius (

This post has been updated from a previous post in 2011. For additional RV Lifestyle articles by Julianne G. Crane, go to
Julianne G. Crane
Julianne G. Crane
Julianne G. Crane writes about the RVing and camping lifestyles for print and online sites. She was been hooked on RVing from her first rig in the mid-1980s. Between 2000-2008, she was a writer for The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, Wash. One of her popular columns was Wheel Life about RVing in the Pacific Northwest. In 2008, Crane started publishing RV Wheel She and her husband, Jimmy Smith, keep a homebase in southern Oregon, while they continue to explore North America in their 21-foot 2021 Escape travel trailer. Over the years they have owned every type of RV except a big class A. “Our needs change and thankfully, there’s an RV out there that fits every lifestyle.”


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Jim and Sandie
12 years ago

The view you get as you come out of Missoula around that curve and see those Missions for the first time always takes my breath away. I never get tired of it.

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