Ever so slowly I've been exploring the Painted Churches of Texas. What I love about these buildings are their unsuspecting nature. From the exterior, they're not much to see, just your average Texas country church in white clapboard. However, upon opening the doors and taking a look inside, they're anything but average. Their intricate interiors are each meticulously painted to resemble the Gothic cathedrals in Europe using a variety of techniques including stenciling, marbling and infill.
While I've taken numerous photos over the last couple of years, it's only since starting the DV Field Trip series have I really stopped to document them in greater detail. I plan on exploring all 18 of them by the end of the year, sharing the experience with y'all here on the blog as I do. So stay tuned and if there is a church you would like to see, do let me know and I'll move it up on my list!
The majority of the churches are located in Fayette County, Texas, although they're not all found in this single county and exploring them all in one day would definitely be a feat. I think I'll start checking them out individually and then perhaps at the end of the series, I'll make a post with my recommended plan of exploration.
First on our list is the oldest of the painted churches, Wesley Brethren Church. Built in 1866 and painted in 1889 by Reverend Laciak who also happened to be an artist, the painting of the the church was cut short when Reverend Laciak was killed in a hunting accident. The original congregation was founded a few years prior to the actual construction of the church in 1864 in Wesley, Texas which was originally called Veseli meaning happy in Czech.
The Painted Churches of Texas were founded and built by Czech and German immigrants in the mid 1800's to early 1900's, and for the most part all of the scripture you'll see is written in either Czech or German, respectively. Above the entrance to the Wesley Church you'll see Ja jsem ta cesta i pravda i zivot slova jezise krista written in stark contrast to the white exterior meaning "I am the way, the truth, and the light, the words of Jesus Christ" in Czech.
As I mentioned, Reverend Laciak died before he could finish the interior painting, but what I find fascinating, is that you can still see his sketched outlines of uncompleted work on the ceilings.
While the he last year of regular worship in the church was in 1964, the grounds and cemetery are still immaculately kept and the while it's not always open, if you're lucky enough to show up when the groundskeeper is there, he'll happily introduce himself and let you in to explore freely. The building is more of a museum now with displays showcasing the history of the congregation and surrounding area.
HOW TO GET THERE FROM AUSTIN
- Take Highway 71 East to La Grange
- Take exit 159
- Turn left onto Highway 159 toward Round Top
- Highway 159 will turn into Highway 237
- At Round Top turn right onto FM 1457
- Turn left on FM 389
- Turn right on FM 2502
- In about 800 feet turn left onto Wesley Church Ln. and you'll spot Wesley Brethern Church on the left!
WHAT TO SEE NEARBY
- St. Martin Catholic Church and Cemetery, the world's smallest active worship Catholic church in Warrenton
WHERE TO EAT ALONG THE WAY
All Photos by Nicole Mlakar
DV Field Trips is a mini series featuring the places I explore around Texas, both as part of the DV vintage hunt and for my own personal pleasure. While I'm hoping it'll be a place where folks can get inspired to get out and explore this great state, it's mostly just an outlet for me to share my passion for history, travel and small town Texas. Follow along here or if you're on Instagram travel with us by searching #DVFieldTrip. Is there a place in Texas you love or would like to know more about? Send us an email - we're always looking for places to explore! In the meantime, enjoy!