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Texas - The Painted Churches of Schulenburg - Treasure found inside!
About halfway between Houston and San Antonio exists the town of Schulenburg, Texas. If you would happen to visit their Chamber of Commerce, you would definitely be encouraged to visit the four historic Painted Churches in the area. The treasure is found inside each of these churches!
They also serve as memorable monuments to the historic past that is part of Schulenburg history.
Be sure and pick up a map so that you can easily find these Gothic styled beauties.
They are not what you might think!
The exteriors look like any other church on the outside. It is the inside of each of these churches that bears further discovery. Let me explain...
First of all you need to know about the immigrants who primarily settled this part of the country.
They were mostly made up of Czechoslovakians and some Germans who came to America to better their circumstances. Some came for economic reasons and others to evade religious oppression.
Whatever their reasons they settled in this region and wanted to practice their religion and follow their common Catholic customs.
The original settlers in Schulenburg were a hard working and dedicated people, but they did not have much extra money to decorate their churches so expensive materials were not an option.
Painters were hired to embellish the inside of each church ultimately creating inspiring and serene surroundings in which to worship.
Supposedly, at least in one case, an itinerant painter was hired to do the job.
What these artistic painters did was magical and different in each case.
These Painted Churches are listed in the National Register of Historic Places due to their uniqueness and are well worth visiting.
St. Mary's Church at Praha
Originally established in 1855, St. Marys received a new exterior from stones quarried from nearby Muldoon, Texas.
The "new" church titled the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was dedicated on November 20, 1895.
The painter hired to decorate the interior was a recognized artist by the name of Gottfried Flury. He had done other church murals and for well over 100 years the ceiling has never had to be retouched.
I was inspired and created an original linocut of a portion of this particular church and its steeple. It is titled Praha Prayers.
Sts. Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church
The location of this charming church is located in Dubina which according to a historical marker was the first Czech settlement in Texas.
The story told was that the first batch of Czech immigrants spent the night nestled under an oak tree for protection from the elements when they first arrived at this location. Oak tree is called "Dub" in Czech and eventually the name was enlarged to account for the many oaks that grew there, thus, Dubina came into existence.
It was a farming community.
Sts. Cyril and Methodious Church was built in 1912. The first church was destroyed by a hurricane 3 years earlier and what remains from that earlier time is the chandelier, bells and cross on the steeple. Everything else was damaged beyond repair.
The cross was made by Ton Lee who was a former slave. He worked for the local blacksmith and created the crowning glory for this church which served the local Catholic community.
A professional artist was employed to paint the inside and he utilized frescoes and stencils to create the unique designs. Amazingly when the church was 75 years old, the parishioners painted over the designs! Some years later when some of the original artwork began to show through the white paint, restoration was begun to uncover and restore the art to its former beauty.
Thank heavens we get to enjoy that original artwork today as it was intended to be seen and enjoyed.
The angels emerging out of the lily-like flowers with musical instruments in their hands are enchantingly sweet and whimsical.
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church
Located at Ammannsville just about 8 miles from Schulenburg, St. John the Baptist Church is the third reincarnation. Destroyed twice, the parishioners persisted and created this Gothic Revival Style Church which is another one listed in the National Register of Historical Places.
It was dedicated in 1919 and was painted by an itinerant drifter who happened to come by at the right place and time with artistic talents which still mark this church today with much grace and beauty.
Something of interest regarding the stained glass windows...men saints are on the right side of the church and women saints were on the left side. Each window was inscribed in the Czech dialect.
Outside the church is a beautiful country cemetery.
St. Mary's Catholic Church at High Hill
Another Gothic Revival styled church, St. Mary's, is also listed in the National Register of Historical Places. German Catholic families who settled in this area in the mid-1860s started the building of the first church. This is the third one standing since that origination over a century ago.
Eighteen stained glass windows were purchased and shipped from Germany to be installed in their place of worship. Beautiful deep colors depicting saints and other biblical scenes add to the beauty inside the church especially when the sunlight warms those intricate designs in the stained glass and makes them glow.
Carved statues of Jesus, Mary and other saints are housed within St. Mary's Church along with unusually beautiful and detailed Stations of the Cross.
The height of the steeple is about 175 and the domed interior ceiling is embellished with paintings of angels, grapes, wheat sheaves, vines, birds and other decorations. All of the ceiling paintings are original and have never had to be retouched.
The columns inside the church look like real marble but are also just painted and made to look like the real thing. Marble, of course, is cool to the touch. The painting of the columns is so well executed that if one did not touch the columns, one could be fooled into thinking that they are indeed marble.
St. Mary's along with the three other Painted Churches in the Schulenburg area are well worth a bit of time to visit.
There are other Painted Churches in Texas and if seeing these four which are clustered in an area not too far from one another in Schulenburg give you the incentive to seek out and look at more of them, then that of course will keep you busy for a while longer.
From Houston it is simply a nice day trip and pleasant outing. We always notice a few new details that we missed seeing in former visits. If you are anywhere near this location, I would suggest putting this on your list of things to do and see.
Thanks for viewing and learning about these Texas treasures. When considering Texas sites, you might wish to consider putting Schulenburg and the Painted Churches on your list of desired places to visit.
© 2009 Peggy Woods