St. Francis Xavier Church

420 W. Pine St., Missoula, Montana


St. Francis Xavier Church

Photo taken by Richard Doody in 2006




"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." - NRHP/Montana Historical Society plaque

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on April 28, 1982
Reference number
Architectural style
Victorian: Romanesque
Areas of significance
Architecture; Religion
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic function
Religious structure
Current function
Religious structure
Period of significance
Significant year


19th Century (37,742)
Blanchard (1)
Brick (42,462)
Built 1892 (737)
Built during 1890s (7,628)
Church (5,702)
Missoula County, Montana (116)
Missoula, Montana (64)
Montana (2,200)
Patrick H. Walsh (1)
Place of worship (6,069)
Private owner (54,398)
Romanesque (2,722)
Sandstone (4,861)
Stone (26,160)
Victorian (19,698)

Update Log 

  • January 27, 2020: New photo from Bill Eichelberger
  • July 24, 2019: Updated by Richard Doody: Added historical information
  • April 26, 2018: New photos from Richard Doody