The Painted Churches of Texas
There are hidden gems in tiny Texas towns along interstate-10 and east of San Antonio, Texas. They are churches! You’d never guess it based on the unassuming exterior of these churches, but they are beautifully decorated inside. It’s like stepping into a European church as soon as you enter the doors.
If you love visiting churches, I recommend taking a day trip from San Antonio or Austin to see these historic buildings.
Tours of the Churches
There are tours available. You must reserve your tour two weeks in advance.
Fee: $50 deposit; $10 per person (the deposit is subtracted from total paid per person, so it’s better with large groups); $40.00 gratuity to tour guide for groups of up to 15 people
Start Location: Greater Schulenburg Chamber of Commerce Visitors’ Center, 618 North Main Street, Schulenburg
Time: Tours begin between 9:00 and 11:00 am. Tours last 3 – 4 hours, including time for lunch.
Transport: You provide the vehicle! You provide a seat for he guide in your own car. However! During the spring, the tours offer vans at specific times on Mondays and Thursdays (check website for dates).
Important Info about Visiting Churches
The churches are open to self guided tours for groups under 6 people. They are open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm (3:00 pm on Saturdays). You may not take self guided tours on Sundays or Holy Days. You can purchase maps and brochures for $5 from the Chamber of Commerce.
I visited the churches on a Monday morning in November. We arrived at the first church (closest to San Antonio) by 9:00 am. The church doors were open so we let ourselves in for a private tour. There was no one else around at most of the churches we visited. We only saw another couple at one church, but they were leaving as we arrived. There’s a good chance, if you go on a weekday morning your experience will be the same.
Tip: Map out the route ahead of time using Google Maps.
We were done visited these four churches by lunch time. I didn’t think we’d have enough time to visit the one in Serbin (see below), but if we were up for it we definitely could have done 5 churches in one day.
(1) St. Mary’s Catholic Church
Address: 821 FM1295, Flatonia, TX 78941
A Little History
This is the newest built edition of the first predominantly Czech Catholic church in the region. This locally sourced stone church was built in 1895 after the parishioners outgrew the original church. The Swiss artist Gottfriend Flury created the painted frescoes on the wooden ceiling.
In 1854 when Matej (matthias) Novak settled with his family in the area known as Hottenot. During this time, Father Victor Gury would visit surrounding towns to provide spiritual guidance and hold mass. It wasn’t until after the civil war that the original church was built. The small stone chapel held its first mass, delivered by Father Joseph Bittkowski, on Christmas Eve 1865.
* It can be difficult to keep track of which church is which, so it’s helpful to assign some labels to them. For example, this one if the Blue Church because of the prominence of blue paint on the inside.
* You’ll notice the locations of these churches change depending on where you look. For instance the address on Google Maps places this church in Flatonia, Texas. Whereas information about the church online places it in Praha, Texas.
As you leave, visit the memorial built in front of the church. It honors the local soldiers who died during WWI.
(2) St. Mary’s Church of Assumption
Address: 2833 FM 2672, Schulenburg, TX 78956
A Little History
As German and Austrian immigrants settled in the region, three communities grew: Blum Hill, Wursten and Oldenburg. These were combined in 1854 into one community: High Hill, named for the mountains in their home of Austria. This was another town where Father Gury would visit to celebrate mass. As the industrial revolution unfolded across the country, High Hill built saw mills, blacksmiths, and flourished in cotton farming.
The first church was built in 1869. It did not take long to outgrow the original. A larger church was built in 1876, featuring stained glass windows. The town outgrew this church, too. The current church, with its red brick, was built in 1906. The stained glass from the second church was moved into the newer one. In 1912, the frescoes were painted.
*I call this one the Red Brick church. This one will have several names when you look it up online. Including St. Mary’s Church of High Hill, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Queen of the Painted Churches. But the sign outside of the Church says St. Mary’s Church of Assumption. This is why I tend to take photos of plaques and signs when I visit places.
* Despite the address being in Schulenburg, it’s actually in High Hill, Texas.
On the way to the next church, we drove over an old iron bridge, large enough for one vehicle. I took the opportunity to photograph this bridge, since my usual encounter with these are through my window as I pass it by on the highway. It’s known as the Piano Bridge (hence the street name Piano Bridge Rd.).
(3) Saints Cyril & Methodius
Address: 2405 Dunina Weimar Rd, Weimar, TX 78962
A Little History
Dubina is designated as the first Czech settlement in Texas because the settlement comprised solely of Czechs, and not because they were the first Czechs in Texas. In fact, Czechs settled in many areas of Texas long before Dubina was established. The journey of those who settled here can be traced from Bremen in the Austria-Hungarian Empire to the port of Galveston, Texas to Fayette County.
The settlers landed in Dubina in 1856 and soon found themselves in the throngs of the Civil War with many of the men being drafted into the Confederacy.
The name Dubina was not the original name for this community. It changed a few times since it was first settled, with the last being Moravia. But when application for a post office revealed there was already a town of this name, it was changed to Dubina for the oak trees. The Czech word for oak is Dub and Dubina means Oak Grove.
In 1858, before the church was built, Joseph Peter built a log house which he opened up to the community for mass. Father Gury (same from above) visited this community to provide services three to four times a year. A formal church was built in 1877, but it was destroyed in 1909 in a hurricane.
The present day church was finished in 1911, with frescoes painted only for it to be painted over in 1952. Restoration proceedings began in 1983. Local artists recreated the interior.
*The No Entry Church. Since you can’t actually explore inside the church and only get a glimpse through the barred entry, I don’t have a nickname for the interior. Instead, I remember this church by it’s outside appearance. Its the White Church with the Flag Post.
* If you’d like to view the inside beyond the gated entry, you’ll need to visit on Sunday or visit the church with a group tour.
*I used the address listed on a brochure I picked up in the entry of the church. The Google address places the church in Schulenburg, but its actually in Dubina, Texas.
(4) St. John the Baptist
Address: 7745 Mensik Rd, La Grange, TX 78945
A Little History
Ammansville gets its name from one of the first settlers in the area, Andrew Amman. Like most of the towns in this region, it was settled mostly by German and Czech immigrants in the mid-1800s.
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church was opened in 1890, but was destroyed in the same 1909 hurricane that destroyed the Cyril & Methodius Church. The church was rebuilt, but was later destroyed by a fire in 1917. The church that stands today was completed in 1919. Since this church was simpler in design than the previous versions, the interior was spruced up with a rose color on the walls.
If you look closely on the pews you may see hooks on one side of the church. Men and women sat on opposite sides in the early days. The hooks were for men to hang their hats on.
Along a small river is the cemetery where many of the town’s settlers are buried.
*This church is nicknamed the Pink Church for pretty obvious reasons.
* Again, the address places this church in La Grange, Texas but it’s technically south of La Grange and in Ammannsville.
The interior actually reminds me of my grandma’s house which was not decorated in the 1920’s but in the 70’s. She, too, has rose color accents and green carpet. My Grandma is also religious so she has crosses, bibles, and other figures in her house. It was like walking into my grandma’s when I stepped inside this church.
St. Mary’s German Catholic Church
Address: 304 W San Antonio St, 307 W Main St, Fredericksburg, TX 78624
If you’re in the hill country and want to visit a church with similar interior design as the Painted Churches, visit St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Main Street in Fredericksburg.
According to its website, tours are also available by appointment. Or you may take a guided tour on Sunday after the 9 am and 11:15 am Mass every Sunday.
St. Paul Lutheran Church
Address: 1572 Co Rd 211, Giddings, TX 78942
About a 40 minute drive north from St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, it’s easy to fit this church into your Painted Churches itinerary.
This Lutheran church was built in 1871 by settlers from the west German region known as Lusatia. The people from this region were known as Wends (or Sorbs). The name Serbin means “Wendish Land”.
If you’d like to learn more about the Wendish people, visit the Texas Wendish Heritage Museum, just down the road from the church.
Which is your favorite Painted Church?