Cultural Exploration Destinations North America

The Painted Churches of Texas

It was a beautiful Fall day and the sun was out with very few clouds in the sky. Although it was November, the temperature was warm enough to wear shorts, because that’s what we do in South Texas. As my husband and I were reading the newspaper and planning our day, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and saw that some of our friends had recently ridden their bikes to see the “Painted Churches of Texas.” I thought it might be fun for us to go check them out on this beautiful sunny day!

He agreed and we began to plan our road trip to include a visit to a dairy farm, Four E Dairy, because he wanted to check out the source of the “raw milk” he frequently buys from them when they are in Victoria. We loaded up the car and headed northeast from Victoria, Texas, to our first stop in Dubina, Texas.

As my husband was driving, I looked up information on my phone about the “Painted Churches” to understand the history about how they came to be known as the Painted Churches, as well as the history of each one. I learned that the title “Painted Churches” was imposed by a resident artist from San Antonio, who had visited these churches. He later advertised in his church bulletins about these gold-leaf and elaborate faux-finished painted ceilings encouraging his members to visit.

The history behind each church comes from European immigrants who brought with them the characteristics of the church buildings they attended in their home countries. When the German and Czech immigrants arrived in Galveston and Indianola to settle in Texas during the 1800s, many selected the southern region of Texas where the hills begin to roll and the lands that reminded them of home. Many of the town names came from these immigrants such as Hallettsville, Shiner, Praha, Ammannsville, Moulton, Schulenburg, and Dubina. Most of the settlers were farmers and ranchers that lived far apart from one another. This made the church not only a place to worship, but also where the communities came together for special occasions.

The churches are replicas of the ancient Gothic structures of their homelands with high steeples, painted walls with colorful patterns, arches of simple wooden sanctuaries, as well as murals, to remind them of specific images from their native homelands.

There are more than 20 painted churches across Texas. We didn’t visit all twenty churches but were able to explore few and I’m happy to share them with you.

All of the Painted Churches are open Monday through Saturday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm (would prefer you not tour during Mass).

Our first stop on our Painted Churches route is Saints Cyril and Methodius Church in Dubina. The original church was destroyed in a hurricane in 1909. Leo Dielmann is the designer of this church. The inside is painted in variations of blue with detailed stenciling on the walls. The ceiling is painted blue with gold stars. The altar is created from wood with many details. Along each side of the church are beautiful stained-glass windows. Outside and across the way is a cemetery with headstones dating back to the early 1900s.

As we drove towards our next church, we came upon this interesting bridge called the Piano Bridge about a half-mile from Dubina. The bridge was erected in 1885. It received its name due to the sounds that whistle through the bridge. The Texas Preservation has saved this bridge and is one of the few remaining historic iron bridges around today. We stopped and admired the picturesque beauty of this historical place in time.

  •   Check out the bridge on TripAdvisor here.

Our next stop was St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Ammannsville, TX. As you approach Ammannsville, the first thing you see is the steeple from St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. Many people refer to this church as the “pink” church. In 1890, after the hurricane destroyed the original church, the congregation salvaged the wood and used it to construct a rectory for the priest. Later a new church was built and completed in 1910.

Ammannsville was primarily a Czech population and was the seat for Precinct 7. Most of the settlers were farmers who produced cotton. Today, this town’s livelihood has changed, but this beautiful church still remains with its colorful stenciled designs on display inside, as well as the gorgeous details at the altar. Enjoy the stained-glass windows as they are fascinating to read.

Nativity of Mary, Blessed Virgin is lined with some of the most unbelievable stained-glass windows. This red-brick church is in an area called High Hill, which came about when someone suggested they choose a “high hill” type of name to remind them of the mountains they left behind in Germany. The church was established in 1906 and the painted interior was done in 1912. Today this church is called the “Queen of the Painted Churches” due to the colorful stained-glass windows.

Across the parking lot is a small gift shop managed by the St. Anne’s Society, which is overflowing with crafts and religious items created by members of the congregation. We browsed the shop and visited with the two volunteer ladies tending the shop.  

We decided it was time to take a lunch break, so we headed into the town of Schulenburg to check out The Garden Co. Marketplace and Café.  A friend of mine told me that was her favorite stop for lunch when traveling through Schulenburg. The décor at this cafe is country chic with vintage industrial and farming tools decorating the walls.

I ordered the Fungi Hamburger and my husband ordered the Lamb Hamburger. Both were delicious! The fries were thick wedges of potatoes fried with a light seasoning. While we enjoyed our lunch, we could gaze out the window and see the nursery outside filled with colorful plants. I would have liked to explore more of the gardens outside, but we were on a mission to see a couple more churches before mass.

St. Mary’s Church of Assumption in Praha, Texas, was designed in Gothic Revival style. It does not look like much of a historic church from the outside though. Built in 1895, it’s one of the oldest painted churches. The artist Gottfried Flurry, created a fantastic hand-carved white altar as well as an elaborate greenish-blue stencil design of gardens and angels on the ceiling.

Near St. Mary’s Church of Assumption is the Four E Dairy in Moulton, Texas, which my husband wanted to visit. So we set our GPS and headed in that direction.

Four E Dairy is owned and operated by Gene and Elyse Chaloupka. This ranch has been in the family for three generations, selling fresh Grade A raw milk and cream from Jersey and Jersey-cross cows. My husband got to know Elyse as she used to drive a refrigerated van to Victoria to sell her milk and other dairy goods. My husband is the cook in the family and loves to make homemade yogurt, as well as many other goodies from raw milk.  

In addition to the dairy farm, the Chaloupka family opened Rocky Creek Maze. Here, families can visit and enjoy finding their way through a corn maze. Other fun activities are available for the kids to participate in while visiting the dairy farm. It was fun watching the kids play and go on hay rides.  

Our last stop was in Shiner, Texas, at the St. Cyril and Methodius Church. I had seen this church from the outside many times as I visited the area for events and as I was passing through town occasionally. The original church was established by Czech and German Catholic families in 1891. They constructed an 85-foot x 40-foot church with a steeple 112 feet high, one of the tallest of its kind in the area. The following year, a twister moved in and destroyed the tower. The damaged building was repaired, and later the congregation outgrew the church as membership was over 1,000. A larger church was built in 1920 by Father Wolf and architect E. Wahrenberger. Today, the church is going through much needed renovations. We arrived an hour before mass which didn’t give us much time to wander around on the inside because members were already taking their seats in the pews.  

I will need to return to spend more time here and capture the details inside, as well as the completion of the renovation of the outside.

In addition to the churches we visited there are several more to see on the trail of the “Painted Churches.”  Here are the others to explore:

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church –  1572 CR 211, Giddings, Texas 78942

Wesley Brethren Church – 9635 Wesley Church Lane, Brenham, TX 77833

St. Mary’s Catholic Church  – 306 W. San Antonio St., Fredericksburg, TX 78624

Ascension of Our Lord Catholic Church – 11134 FM 957, Moravia, TX

Church of Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of Peace – 7372 FM 531, Sweet Home, TX 77987

St. John the Baptist Parish  – 13202 FM 531, Sweet Home, TX 77987

Church of the Guardian Angels – 5610 Demel St, Wallis, TX 77485

St. Mary’s Catholic Church –  1648 FM 340, Hallettsville, TX 77964

We had such a beautiful day visiting these gorgeous and historic churches. The Chamber of Commerce in Schulenburg offers group tours or you can map it out on your own and drive at your leisure. One piece of advice is that going with a guided tour might give you more information about the communities and its churches, rather than researching it on your own. Most churches do not have information about the details of the church on the inside other than the historical markers you may find in the front of each of them.

If you are like me and like to add a little adventure to the activity, you could ride your bike. This may take you longer, but you will really get to see and appreciate the immigrants that came upon this land on horses.

Create your own fun Saturday and plan a visit to the Painted Churches. If you want to read more about other small-town, fun places to visit in Texas, check out my other blogs below to discover your next fun weekend!

If you liked this blog, be sure to check out some of our other Small Town Texas Trip Guides:

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