Thiol-functionalized mesostructured silica with anhydrous compositions of (SiO2)1-x(LSiO1.5)x, where L is a mercaptopropyl group and x is the fraction of functionalized framework silicon centers, are effective trapping agents for the removal of mercuric(II) ions from water. In the present work, we investigate the mercury-binding mechanism for representative thiol-functionalized mesostructures by atomic pair distribution function (PDF) analysis of synchrotron X-ray powder diffraction data and by Raman spectroscopy. The mesostructures with wormhole framework structures and compositions corresponding to x = 0.30 and 0.50 were prepared by direct assembly methods in the presence of a structure-directing amine porogen. PDF analyses of five mercury-loaded compositions with Hg/S ratios of 0.50-1.30 provided evidence for the bridging of thiolate sulfur atoms to two metal ion centers and the formation of chain structures on the pore surfaces. We find no evidence for Hg-O bonds and can rule out oxygen coordination of the mercury at greater than the 10% level. The relative intensities of the PDF peaks corresponding to Hg-S and Hg-Hg atomic pairs indicate that the mercury centers cluster on the functionalized surfaces by virtue of thiolate bridging, regardless of the overall mercury loading. However, the Raman results indicate that the complexation of mercury centers by thiolate depends on the mercury loading. At low mercury loadings (Hg/S ≤ 0.5), the dominant species is an electrically neutral complex in which mercury most likely is tetrahedrally coordinated to bridging thiolate ligands, as in Hg(SBut)2. At higher loadings (Hg/S 1.0-1.3), mercury complex cations predominate, as evidenced by the presence of charge-balancing anions (nitrate) on the surface. This cationic form of bound mercury is assigned a linear coordination to two bridging thiolate ligands.