It’s by no means as famous as Rome’s Sistine Chapel, but there’s a
little red-brick church on the road to Montana’s Flathead Indian
Reservation that has more in common with its Italian counterpart than
merely being a house of worship.
Part of the Catholic mission that gives tiny St. Ignatius, Montana, its
name, the church — built in 1891 and now a National Historic Site —
appears almost plain from the outside. But step inside, let your eyes
adjust to the soft light, and the revelation unfolds: 58 original
paintings by Brother Joseph Carignano cover the walls and ceilings.
An Italian Jesuit, Carignano spent two decades on his wonderful
paintings, which depict scenes from both the Old and New Testaments as
well as many saints.
Like Michelangelo before him, his amazing frescoes and
paintings have stories to tell. Yet Carignano had no formal training in
the arts — in fact, he was the mission’s handyman and cook. He completed
his extraordinary legacy in his spare time.
To reach the town of St. Ignatius, follow U.S. Highway 93 north
from Missoula or south from Kalispell. The mission itself is two blocks
from the highway; just follow the signs; hours are 9am-8pm summer,
For more information, call (406) 745-2768.