Painted Churches Tour - June 22, 2009

It was a beautiful but warm Monday morning when we loaded the Harris County bus at Bayland Park for the "Painted Churches" tour in Fayette County. We arrived in Schulenburg to pick up our tour guide Ben Sustr. He didn't hesitate to give the driver, Cheryl a cassette with polka music for us to listen to while traveling. Everyone seemed to enjoy his jokes and knowledge of the community and the Churches.

On our way to our churches, we drove through the country where we saw a farm that raised Clydesdale horses, lots of older farms and lots of dry corn crops in much need of rain. Ben pointed out, lots of land bought by Houston people.

Our first church, Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church in Dubina (a variation of the Czech word for oak), was first built in 1876 and destroyed in 1909 by a hurricane. Rebuilt in 1912, it survived a fire that destroyed the town. This elegant white wooden church has the wrought-iron cross topping the steeple that was made by a former slave. It was rescued from the 1876 church that was destroyed by the hurricane. Inside the work is timeless with arches outlined in ivies, flowers, and trailing oak leaves. In a move that now seems almost reprehensible, the congregation painted over the artwork in 1953 for the settlement's Diamond Jubilee celebration. In 1981, a former altar boy convinced the parishioners to uncover and restore the art. Using alcohol, cotton swabs, some of the original stencils, and a little creativity, the beautiful paints came back to life around a sky of blue ceiling.

On the front left side of the church stands a memorial for Mrs.Rosie Konvicka, one of the Railroad Killer's victims who attended the church. Ben stated that there are 52 family's of the church.

About 5 miles north of Dubina we drove to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Ammannsville. Opened in 1890, it was also destroyed by the 1909 hurricane. It was rebuilt and burned shortly thereafter and had to be rebuilt a second time. It was dedicated in 1919. The interior features stenciling, infill free hand, and marbling techniques. The windows, depicting men Saints on the right, and women Saints on the left, are inscribed in Czech. They have 92 family's.

Being lunch time, we then drove to Express Barbecue Depot and enjoyed some hometown cooking. Leaving the BBQ place we drove next door to Kountry Bakery where we bought kolaches and a variety of pastries.

About three miles northwest of Schulenburg, we arrived at St Mary's Catholic Church in High Hill. The 111 foot steeple on the brick and stone building is a stately example of Gothic revival architecture reminiscent of European cathedrals. The bright colors of stain glass windows, the soft colors of the arches and paintings of angels draw the eyes of the congregation toward heaven. The elaborate faux marble columns and ceiling and the magnificent hand carved wood and glass altar is a sight to see. Family Members is presently at 267.

St Mary's Church of the Assumption in Praha is the only one of the four "Painted Churches" south of I-10 and was founded in 1854. The stone church was dedicated in 1895 with murals and the ceiling is decorated with symbols, angels, gold scrolls, vines and 66 different types of flowers and scrubs (no bluebonnets). Behind the altar the Swiss-born painter Godfrey Flury, painted Prague's main cathedral, St Vitus. Remarkably, no part of the painting has ever needed to be retouched. This parish produced 5 priests and 31 Nuns. Membership is at 87 but the present population of Praha is 37.

Our last stop was at City Meat market where they made homemade sausage and wieners. Several took some home. As you can tell, we also like to shop for food to take home when we tour.

We had a drawing, Marie, Gwen and Eddie got cross lapel pins, Ralph won a cross and Mercedes won a cross necklace.

We hope that you will join us soon on another great Day Trip.
-Charles and Sylvia Slanina

Attendees were: Ralph and Estelle Garcia, Bob and Marian Gruber , Israel and Nora Morales, Bill and Mary Young, Gwen and Eddie Dickey, Mercedes Alva, Teresa Lippod, Sally Anderson, Gayle Steel, Marie Kucera, Margaret Slanina, Charles and Sylvia Slanina.