Texas Independence Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Painted Churches

Texas in the 19th century experienced an era of expansion unlike the countryside had ever seen before. Although Spanish colonial and Mexican forces made the road to statehood difficult, their influences were now part of the Texas narrative and here to stay. Alongside early Anglo and Hispanic settlers already established in the region, a new wave of European arrivals began to make their mark across Texas including large numbers of Germans and Czechoslovakians. Not only did these new Texans bring their own languages and cultural preferences, they also brought their own architectural styles and designs. Fortunately, many examples survive today including a unique collection of community worship centers known now as the Painted Churches.

Although predominately Gothic Revival in design, the churches vary in denomination with Catholicism and Protestantism both weighing in among these architectural beauties. Their distinction lies in the interior ornamentation, distinguished by decorative painting techniques covering walls, ceilings, arches, and altars. The techniques vary although all are bright, colorful, and were applied by hand.  Stenciling, such as the designs seen inside Saints Cyril and Methodius Church in Dubina, is a process utilizing templates to create small repeated patterns. The pink interior of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Ammansville features the shading effect achieved by a variation of stenciling called “infill”. Should a church have someone in the parish who excelled in artistry, a freehand technique could be employed like the designs at St. Mary’s Church of the Assumption in Praha. St. Mary’s features work by both professional artist Gottfried Flury and part-time artist Father Netardus, pastor of St. Mary’s in 1901. A technique called marbling, of which excellent examples may be seen in Nativity of Mary, Blessed Virgin Catholic Church in High Hill north of Schulenberg, requires a special skill in order to reproduce the appearance of marble on plain stone or plaster. Fifteen of over twenty of these Painted Churches have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, making sure their decorative heritage survives the new century. The Schulenburg Chamber of Commerce sponsors a tour of the area’s Painted Churches but, should you decide to tour them on your own, be aware that all of the churches continue to have active worship services. 

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