Painted Churches of Texas: Where Faith Meets Art

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     Painted Churches

    The Painted Churches in Fredericksburg, Texas, doesn’t appear to merit its colourful moniker from the exterior.

    St. Mary’s Catholic Church sparkles in the Texas Hill Country sunshine with its white exterior and gothic grandeur, spires soaring upward as if to God himself. However, until you go inside, it doesn’t live up to its nickname of a Texas Painted Church. In the 1800s, people from Germany and the Czech Republic came to Texas and built extraordinary churches. Even though these churches seem simple from the outside, they are beautiful and full of lovely painted designs that amaze our eyes.

    There aren’t many churches, and the ones that do are all in the picturesque Texas Hill Country. People now think of these churches as critical historical places in the country. Many individuals from different countries moved here and built them with care. For instance, the Germans who founded Fredericksburg were drawn to this Wild West region by the enterprising group of German businesses known as the Adelsverein, or The Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas.

    An important agreement was made between settlers and Native Americans in 1847 when Baron Ottfried Hans von Meusebach and the Comanche Indians of the San Saba River did so.

     The Texas Painted Churches, which are ancient and exclusive to Texas, have German roots.

    St. Mary’s Catholic Church In Fredericksburg, Texas

     Painted Churches

    The ancient “little” church and the “new” St. Mary’s are separate churches that comprise Fredericksburg’s St. Mary’s Catholic Church. German people who came to this place in 1846 built the church. They made the inside very pretty with fake finish artwork on the windows, altar, spires, and pulpit. This shows the spiritual solid love they put into it.

    Every little thing in the church has significance. There are 24 crosses stencilled on the ceiling, 12 of which stand for the Old Testament and 12 for the New Testament. The church’s five entrances symbolize the five crucifixion wounds that Christ sustained.

    Jim Chude, a tour guide for St. Mary’s church, says every little thing has a special meaning. Everything in the church points up to heaven.

    When more people lived here, they made a new church in 1906. But they kept the painted church inside with all the shiny art and meaningful symbols.

     

    St. Mary’s Catholic Church In Praha, Texas

     Painted Churches

    There’s another famous Painted Church called St. Mary’s Church of the Assumption near Praha, Texas, along U.S. 90. In the tall tower and on the pretty stone exterior of the building, you can find a giant chandelier made of Czech crystal. The ceiling inside is rounded, and someone painted it with shades of blue and green. The top has painted pictures of plants and flowers using stencils. Behind the hand-carved altar, three yellow, blue, and pink angels with white accents encircle a floating cross resembling a confirmation cake.

    People built the church in 1895, and it has gone through different rounds of repairs and restoration since then. They changed part of St. Mary’s School into a place where people gather for Sunday worship in 2015. Also, they put a new copper roof on it in 2011, replacing the old shingle roof.

    In the sanctuary are six well-known and verified works of art by Joann Ignaz Berger (1882–1901), Gene Mikulik, a parishioner of St. Mary’s, and Fr. Netardus. Berger made three paintings of high quality for the church, and Dr. Antonio Loro from Houston confirmed and approved their historical importance.

    Sts. Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church,  Dubina

     Painted Churches

    Czech immigrants first came to Fayette County in 1856, settling in a region called Dubina (dub in Czech means oak grove). In 1877, they built their first church at this location. Formerly enslaved person and blacksmith Tom Lee made the iron cross that stands on the tower.

    A storm in 1909 destroyed this church, similar to many others in the area. The neighbourhood gathered the necessary monies to pay architect Leo Dielmann to create the blueprints. They put the iron cross from the old church’s ruins on top of the steeple of the new building.

    We don’t have any documents to help us figure out who originally painted the church. Anyway, during the 1950s, they painted over the original artwork completely with white paint. The people who attended the church decided to rebuild it in the 1980s. This happened when other churches were praised for their historical importance and beautiful decorations. To bring the cathedral back to its former splendour, they methodically uncovered previous patterns and utilized stencils they had discovered inside the building.

    Of the four painted cathedrals, only this one requires a tour guide. A locked gate blocks the entrance. I don’t have any more interior pictures since you can only look and take photos outside the gate; you cannot enter.

    Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church,  Ammannsville

    Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church

    People have described the colour inside this church as everything from cotton candy to Pepto-Bismol. Most people see it as a light, rosy pink colour. I would describe it as more salmon than pink, but “the pink one” seems more appealing than “the salmon one”!

    The current St. John’s church is the third one built here. A hurricane destroyed the first one in 1909. Leo Dielmann made the second one, but it burned down in 1917. The inside was just as elaborate as St. Mary’s in High Hill, and the outside was Victorian. The 1919 construction of the current church is considerably more straightforward, lacking the columns of the earlier building in favour of an open, breezy design.

    After painting the church’s interior, the artist who did it disappeared. Ultimately, a design professor named Buie Harwood studied artwork from churches where known artists worked. This happened in the 1980s and 1990s at St. John’s. She concluded that the painting at St. John’s was by artist Fred Donecker.

    Nativity of Mary, Blessed Virgin Catholic Church (High Hill)

    Blessed Virgin Catholic Church

    People built the 1906 redbrick Catholic church called St. Mary’s for a group of Germans and Austrian-Moravians with German roots. These folks had been living in the Fayette prairie, specifically in a place called unorganized High Hill, for at least since the 1850s. This area is one hundred miles west of Houston.

    San Antonio painters Ferdinand Stockert and Herman Kern gave the church’s interior a makeover. San Antonio painters achieved an impressive artistic accomplishment in a short time in 1912, and people still consider it remarkable. They recreated the splendour of a European church in a much smaller space via cunning and discernment. They painted the eight wooden columns with multiple layers of paint in an ocher colour. This makes them seem like they’re made of marble. They put colourful blooming vines in clusters around the column tops and the nave. Painting the Gothic rib-vault ceilings with such finesse gives the appearance of crossing wooden beams.

    Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church (Panna Maria)

    Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church (Panna Maria)

    The oldest Polish town in the nation, Panna Maria, saw the completion of Immaculate Conception in 1878. They used large tiles to cover the entire church ceiling when they did a major refurbishment in 1937. In 2000, they removed the tiles and uncovered a hand-painted roof hidden for a long time.

    The artwork displays eight famous Christian symbols. These include the Lamb of God on top of the Book of Revelation, which an unknown artist added to the church at some point. Father Antoni Polaniak, a priest who is also a painter, flew to southeast Texas from Poland to restore the recently discovered piece. Polaniak contributed his artwork, such as the picture of a ship honouring the first Polish colonists crossing the ocean on their way to Texas, in addition to painting rings of fluffy white clouds around each image.

    FAQ

    How can a tour of the Painted Churches be scheduled?

    Call the Chamber office at least two weeks beforehand to confirm that the day you have in mind for a visit is open. You will receive complete assistance from the team. Please get in touch with the Chamber office before sending a reservation form and deposit.

    Why is a $50.00 deposit required?

    The deposit ensures that you will show up for your tour and that the Chamber will honour your reservation. You’ll need to pay the deposit to have a guide for your group. When you come, we’ll use the deposit to cover the cost of the guide. If you don’t come for your tour and don’t cancel at least one day ahead, you’ll lose the deposit for any reason.

    At the end of the trip, should I tip the guide?

    The guides are doing a service much like anyone in the service industry. If they’ve done an excellent job, giving them a tip would be nice. The amount is up to each individual.

    Do I have to drive my car or may we all use the bus?

    If you have room, the tour guide will come along in your car. You need to provide your transportation. If required, the focus can use their vehicle, but they can’t give rides to tour participants.

    Is there a required bare minimum for taking a walking tour?

     The Chamber is glad to host groups of any size, whether they number one or one hundred.

    Can you merge my group with another one if I have a few people?

    The Chamber tries to host as many groups as possible, but occasionally, there need to be more docents on hand. Additionally, we restrict the number of guided excursions to six each day. We will only put two groups together in case of an emergency. Each group should feel their unique occasion is theirs rather than something they must share with others. Please pick another day or take the self-guided tour if we cannot provide a guided tour on the requested date.

    Do I need a guide to explore the churches on my own?

    If your group has six people or fewer, you can visit the Painted Churches yourself. With occasional exceptions, the Painted Churches are typically open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. To make preparations for the evening Mass, St. Mary’s Church in Prague requests that visitors leave the building by 3:00 on Saturdays. It’s a good idea to phone the Chamber of Commerce before your visit to ensure the churches are open. Occasionally, some churches host weddings, funerals, or special Masses.

    Why am I not allowed to attend churches on Sundays and holy days?

     Services are held at each of the Painted Churches on weekends and holidays.

    Does the Chamber’s revenue from tours go to the churches?

    The Chamber generously donates to the churches a share of the proceeds from the visits.

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