The Catholic Ladder

catholic ladder

"The 'Ladder' from which this illustration was made was one of the first prepared. It had been among the papers and documents at Fort Nisqually for more than sixty years, and at that time was owned by Mr. Edward Huggins, who was in charge of that Hudson's Bay Post when it was transferred to the United States.

The writer at that time was permitted to have a photographic copy of it made, which was fortunate, as it has since disappeared, and now probably lies hidden among the treasures of some curie collector. It showed that it had been used quite often, but was still in good condition. Writing from memory, it was about six feet long and eighteen inches wide. The material was strong yellow wrapping paper pasted on white cloth, and the illustrations were evidently made with a small paint brush, and, judging from the long retention, undimmed, of its color, India ink was used. Rev. Father Blanchet made its first use at the Cowlitz Mission in July, 1842. Many copies of it were made and presented to Indian chiefs and thereafter it was in constant use among the Indians all over the Northwest. In 1860 an engraved edition was issued, of elaborate form, with a large amount of historical matter in print and in pictorial form. The method of using it was carefully explained."

Early Catholic Missions in Old Oregon
Ed. Clarence B. Bagley, Seattle,
Lowman & Hanford Company, 1932, p. 119.

" In order to teach the Indians in this and other localities the main truths of faith, Father Blanchet devised the ingenious method of what later became known as 'The Catholic Ladder'.

Brief explanation starting at the bottom :

The 40 horizontal bars represent the 40 centuries B. C. The 33 dots represent the years of Christ's life on earth. The 18 bars represent the 18 centuries A. D. The 42 dots represent the 42 succeeding years. Explanation of symbols here given are not found in original source, but are believed to be highly probable." (Click on the image for a slightly larger version.)

ST. FRANCIS XAVIER MISSION (Cowlitz Prairie)


The material presented above on the Catholic Ladder was found in the parish archives. It is presented here for religious and educational purposes only. No other use is intended or permitted.

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