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Historic Painted Churches of the Texas Hill Country

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The Historic Painted Churches is a series of historic churches located in the Texas Hill Country just outside of Austin. Many of these churches are Czech and German-inspired. Immigrants brought their architectural style of the 19th Century with them when they first hailed to Texas for economic reasons. These churches are called, “Painted” churches because they are uniquely designed and painted with elaborate and extravagant faux-finished interiors. They were built in the 1830s through 1900.

There are 20 painted churches in all, and they’re scattered among the rolling hills of the beautiful Hill Country. In 1984, these churches became listed as a part of the National Register of Historic Places.

The insides of these magnificent churches are layered with hours of painstaking labor by hand stenciling, infill, freehand, marbling, staining and graining. They are adorned with masterful paintings, shimmering stained glass, charming murals, and gold-encrusted altars.

Don’t miss the scenic drive to visit these impressive architectural marvels.

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church

Historic Painted Churches of the Texas Hill Country

Photo: Flickr.com/Jerry and Pat Donaho

No visit to Schulenburg is complete without a tour of the town’s famous painted churches, at least one of which dates back over 100 years. When the Czech and German immigrants who founded the town first came to Texas, they found themselves missing the comforts of home and went about building churches to bring the old world to Texas. The result was the creation of some of the most beautiful churches in the nation, full of stained glass and elaborate paintings. Travelers to Schulenburg have been visiting these churches for years, and for good reason!

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church is located  at 7745 Mensik Road in Schulenburg, Texas.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church (High Hill)

Historic Painted Churches of the Texas Hill Country

Photo: St. Joseph Catholic Church in Richardson, TX

Nativity of Mary, Blessed Virgin Catholic Church is one of the first churches built by noted Texas architect, Leo M.J. Dielmann. It was built in 1906. Dielmann was the son of a contractor who already had a history of serving the Catholic Church of Texas in various building projects.

Billed as the “Queen of the Painted Churches,” St. Mary’s Catholic Church could be considered the crown jewel of Texas’ painted churches. The red-brick Gothic Revival church is packed to the gills with statues of saints. It also has an elaborate altar, a chandelier, a pipe organ, Stations of the Cross imported from Italy and a painted reproduction of Michaelangelo’s “Pieta.” The apse dome is awash in a subtle periwinkle blue, accented in gold leaf. Tromp l’oeil abounds; the faux marble was painted with turkey feathers. Intricately detailed stained-glass windows glow in the afternoon sun.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church is located at 2833 FM 2672 in Schulenburg, Texas.

St. Mary’s Church of the Assumption

Historic Painted Churches of the Texas Hill Country

Photo: stmaryspraha.org

“Maticka Praha” – Praha – the name spoken by many Czech lips with resounding pride in Fayette County, throughout the mighty state of Texas, even to the far reaches of the United States and across the seas to Czechoslovakia. Praha – the promise of the New World was to be realized here.

In 1865, the settlers, though having little or no money and barely enough food for their own survival, did build a small chapel. This chapel, measuring 17-feet by 15-feet, was made of stones. The walls were 18 inches thick. Considering the thickness of the walls, the chapel inside measured only 15 1/2 feet by 13 1/2 feet – not much larger than many a room in a modern home. The stones used in the chapel are much smaller than the ones used to build the present church, and appear to be slabs of stone ranging from one to five inches in thickness.

The first Mass was offered in the chapel at midnight on Christmas Eve in 1865. The celebrant was Father Joseph Bittkowski, a Benedictine missionary priest who was serving in this area of Texas under the jurisdiction of the Resurrectionist Missionaries. These missionaries had come to Texas to minister to the Polish People.

A little imagination can add an altar brimming with beautiful native Christmas flowers and flowers from seeds and bulbs which they brought from their homelands, a crucifix, soft light from the candles that burn at all Masses, Christmas hymns sung in the Czech language, and a warmth spreading from those present at the Mass, to provide an all-pervading sense of peace, love and good will toward their neighbors which was surely felt by those participating.

St. Mary’s Church of the Assumption is located at 821 FM 1295 in Flatonia, Texas.

Maps and Directions:

Spring is the best time to visit as the wildflowers are in bloom. This tour can be completed in one day. For more information, please visit the Schulenberg Chamber of Commerce located on 618 N. Main Street, Schulenberg, TX. Brochures are available outside for weekend visitors.

The Painted Churches have no official website. Twelve are a short drive from the small town of Schulenburg, (on I-10 between Houston and San Antonio) and the Chamber of Commerce there offers popular tours.

Many of the Painted Churches are open daily, but guided tours offer a wealth of background information that brings to life each church’s special features. To request a guide, please call (866) 504-5294.

References:

www.textraveler.com

www.chron.com

St. Joseph Catholic Church in Richardson, TX

stmaryspraha.org