Painted Churches Tour - June 22, 2014

by Mary Brown

It was a beautiful but warm Saturday morning when we loaded the Harris County bus at Bayland Park for the "Painted Churches" tour in Fayette County.

On the way we ate a lite breakfast and played a little bingo and it seemed like no time before we were arriving in Schulenburg to pick up our tour guide.

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 that they added stars to.

While at the church I was surprised when a group of people, from my church, came walking in. They were kind enough to take the group picture for us. Then they seemed to follow us from church to church.

I asked them on Sunday if they had a docent with them and they said they had just decided to visit the churches after seeing it in the AAA magazine. I told them they were fortunate that there was a tour going on so the churches were open. Besides they all owed me $10.00 for the tour. They laughed. 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. These stained windows were made by Tiffany's.

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 different types of flowers and shrubs. 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. We stopped for lunch at the Oakridge Smoke House. As many times as I have been down I-10 I had never stopped there. It came highly recommended by the Schulenburg Chamber and now I can understand why. The food was good and the place was unique. It is not only a restaurant. It serves as a bakery, confectionary shop as well as gift store. Many took advantage of this stop and bought things that reminded them of their childhood. 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.

I want to thank Bea for encouraging me to put this trip together. I hope that you will join us soon on another great Day Trip.

Attendees were: Daryl & Brenda Moss, Irene Henajosa, Isabel Rangel, Ruth Grace, Sylvia Cruz, Hilda Rivera, Bea Moreno, Terri Rodriguez, Femina & Tom Sutter, Connie Meza, Joseph & Theresa Nguyen, Tom & Cindy Croissant, Diane Murray, Juana Sandoval, DeAnn Thomas, Regina Torez and Mary Brown.

Copyright TI Houston Alumni Association 2014, All Rights Reserved.

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