Texas’ painted churches are stunning, historically significant, and culturally significant. They’re not to be missed if you’re a believer or simply a fan of art.
The painted churches of Texas dot the central Hill Country, living legacies of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Immigrants who wished to bring a piece of their old life to the New World erected and decorated them in the style of Europe’s great gothic cathedrals. Visiting the painted churches, the majority of which are Roman Catholic, is the closest you’ll get to tour the sanctuaries of Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic in the United States.
Intricate patterns, soaring cherubs, blooming flora, and exquisite trompe l’oeil imagery cover each structure. Their beauty reflects the early settlers’ goals, dreams, and unshakeable faith.
If you’re a devout pilgrim, an architect, or a lover of fresco art, Texas-painted cathedrals should be on your bucket list.
Best Painted Churches of Schulenburg
Eastern European and German immigrants poured to Texas’ central hills in the 1800s and early 1900s. With them came their customs and names for towns. Praha, Schulenburg, Dubina, Serbin, and Fredericksburg are still entrenched in Teutonic and Slavic culture today, and their restored painted churches are magnificent symbols of the early settlers’ customs, morals, and creative sensibility.
About 20 painted churches remain today, many of which are in or near Schulenburg, which is why they are frequently referred to as the Schulenburg painted churches.
But Schulenburg isn’t the only town with these holy relics; we’ve listed our six favorites below, which can be found at Serbin, High Hill, Ammannsville, Dubina, Fredericksburg, and Praha.
The best-painted churches are as follows:
St. John the Baptist Church, Ammannsville
St. John the Baptist, sometimes known as the “pink church,” is a dusty rose vision in Ammannsville, a tiny ghost town. Ivy and angel figures are spread around the sanctuary, with gold stenciled designs atop a light pink base.
Green floors and a plethora of painted statuary add to the church’s wow appeal. The original murals were created by Fred Donecker and Sons, who promoted themselves as “fresco painters.”
The church’s stained glass windows depict the tale of the area’s Czech heritage and history and are a lasting tribute to the early settlers. The current structure, which was built in 1918, is the third on the site. The first church was destroyed by a powerful hurricane in 1909, and the second was destroyed by fire eight years later.
St. Paul’s Lutheran, Serbin
St. Paul’s Lutheran in Serbin, built-in 1870 under the guidance of Rev. John Kilian, is the only non-Catholic painted church on our list. St. Paul’s boasts gold-accented cerulean ceilings and columns painted with exquisite floral designs and faux-marble finishes, which were once the worship place of Wendish immigrants who left Hamburg, Germany, in search of tillable land.
St. Paul’s was a modest wood church for the first 36 years of its existence.
However, in 1906, the community decided to freshen things up by painting the church without the assistance of a professional artist.
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church also has the largest pulpit in Texas, soaring at a towering 20 feet above the ground! There are also two levels of pews in the church. Men used to sit on the upper floors, while women and children sat on the lower floors.
St. Mary’s Church of the Assumption, Praha
The oldest painted church in the region is St. Mary’s Church of the Assumption in Praha, Texas, which was built in 1895. The original artwork was produced by artist Gottfried Flury, and additions were added by the church’s pastor, Father Netardus, a hobbyist painter and musician, in 1901.
Another artist, Gene A. Mikulik, applied gold leaf to areas of the sanctuary in the mid-1900s and painted “Our Lady of Victory,” the church’s trademark mural of the Virgin Mary. St. Mary’s Church of Assumption’s blue-green arching ceiling is a Garden of Eden reproduction adorned with Texas flowers, and the polished flooring reflects the huge chandelier and stained glass windows. The white altar, encrusted in 24 karat gold, is the church’s star.
A tranquil painting of three angels dressed in pink, blue, and yellow floating around a cross hangs behind the hand-carved altar. The magnificent image is enhanced by painted cornices and wooden beams. Local legend has it that the congregation struggled to locate someone to secure the cross atop the 130-foot steeple. They offered a keg of beer to the individual who achieved the feat to encourage hopefuls. One man accepted the offer, and when he got to the top, he did a handstand!
Saints Cyril and Methodius Church, Dubina
A group of families from Moravia’s northeastern region arrived in the central Texas highlands in the mid-1800s, and after coming across a grove of oak trees, they chose to call the location home and named it Dubin. Following the Civil War, in 1877, these same families decided to build Saints Cyril and Methodius Church.
They topped their house of worship with an iron cross forged by a freed slave named Tom Lee, which was quite symbolic.
Saints Cyril and Methodius, however, were killed in the 1909 storm that decimated central Texas. Undaunted, the Dubinites built a new church in 1912 and managed to save Mr. Lee’s cross.
Saints Cyril and Methodius is a tribute to the gothic cathedrals of their motherland, with sky-blue ceilings and domes adorned with gold stars, flowery stencils, and angels on high. The altar is encircled by statutes, and a mural of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane is prominently shown.
Saints Cyril and Methodius is a bright sanctuary that uplifts the soul, with more windows than any other painted church in Texas. The colorful interior was deemed too distracting by the local bishop in the 1950s, so the artwork was bleached. Saints Cyril and Methodius restored the original painting in the 1980s when other nearby churches were noted for their painted interiors.
St. Mary’s Church, Fredericksburg
The sandstone St. Mary’s Church in Fredericksburg, which was dedicated in 1908, was erected by one of Fredericksburg’s richer immigrant communities – and it shows!
The congregation spared no cost in the construction of the structure, which features corner towers, buttresses, beautiful stained glass windows, domed ceilings, and ornate moldings. In the early 1900s, George Kilgen & Son designed a unique pipe organ for the area, which, despite being electric, continues to fill the church with beautiful hymns. Look for the stained glass window depicting two youngsters receiving their first communion from guardian angels when you visit.
The boy is James, and the girl is Erma, two church-connected immigrant children who died at an early age, as many did at the time. A fresco of the 12 apostles that runs the length of the central aisle is another significant feature. However, the artist took liberties by substituting Matthias for Judas.
In case you need a break, Fredericksburg is a wonderful German town with a rich history and a fun downtown. This little Texas town was formed on May 8, 1846, by German immigrants as part of the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas.
The painted Texas churches are treasured historic structures that commemorate the early settlers’ inventiveness and faith, and seeing them is a delight.
The majority of the churches are open to the public; however, access to the altars is restricted.
Furthermore, while the sanctuary is not in use, some congregations close the doors. As a result, we suggest taking a tour to understand more about the distinctive features of each building. Tours also allow you to get up close and personal with the subject matter.