We left Edinburg, just a day late to avoid the flood. Sounds like they got the field mostly drained and things are returning to normal down there. We headed to Schulenburg to do the painted churches tour and see other attractions in the area. There is a lot to see. And bluebonnets, of course.
The painted churches are really worth seeing. There are four of them (one, Praha, was closed for repair), spread out in about a 15 mile radius. At first we thought we would do them on our bikes, but when we realized there was so much to see in the area we rented a car. They came and picked us up from Lagrange, about 15 miles away and brought us back to the bus when we returned the car. We were happy to pay the $50 and toured the towns of High Hill, Dubina, Ahmannsville, Swiss Alp, Weimar, Columbus, Halletsville, Flatonia and the surrounding area, including Lagrange where we turned the car in. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The painted churches. This is a self guided tour. You just drive to the church and check it out. Most of them were built in the mid 1800s by mostly Czech immigrants who came to the area and settled among the live oaks and rolling meadows. All the churches and cemeteries are open and we had them all to ourselves.
The area is lush and green from all the rain and the live oak trees are a sight to see. The bus was parked right next to this one and it wasn’t even as monstrous as some of them, including the second largest live oak in Texas, which is in Columbus. Some of the churches had groves of them.
This is the second largest one. Seventy feet tall, trunk circumference of 329 inches with a crown spreading over 110 feet. Estimated to be over 500 years old. It spilled way over into the neighboring yard. This picture was taken from way far away with a fisheye lens. So, big. Yeah.
The sanctuary is pretty spectacular too.
One unique note: The churches are in very rural areas and are unlocked. The stained and painted glass is not protected with plexiglass or bars. The cemeteries do not have a bunch of broken headstones. Trust the loving universe; they have remained undamaged. If you’re looking for a good place to settle down, unlocked churches would be a good criteria to go by.
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church is in Ahmannsville. They all have a very large cemetery as well as pavilions for gatherings. Truly the center of community life.
Dubina is the oldest one and has the biggest trees on the grounds.
Dubina has a really interesting cemetery where they took special care to note graves of folks who weren’t buried on site. Much attention to detail in a day when life was much more unpredictable.
These largely Czech communities must have teemed with artists and craftsmen, evidenced by the work in the area. The stonework, masonry, woodworking, stucco, painting, along with the mastery of stained/painted glass are all remarkable. Not to mention the difficulty of construction. They just got ‘er done. Where do you see this level of craftsmanship in today’s world? Yes, there are lots of artists these days, but these projects took a sustained community of craftsmen and artists many years to produce these humbling works. The work ethic and acknowledgement of art and craft are missing in today’s strip malls and Butler building churches. Not to mention that many “blue collar” workers would actually be creatively employed, not just working at Walmart. If you go to church, you may as well go to one where the art inspires you as much as the sermon. That would be a big plus for me.
Many more pics on Flickr. There are just too many to include here. Worth a look.