SCHULENBURG

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Okay, I’ll admit it.  Up until now, I’ve put a lot of thought in to where I travel for this project, but this time it snuck up on me.  It was Sunday night and I realized I had nothing to post this week and no travel plans.  Plus, the weather forecast predicted sleet and snow.  Where was I supposed to go?

I needed some place that had indoor activities and that wasn’t too far away, just in case driving conditions got bad.  Obviously I couldn’t camp.

Monday morning I woke up and started researching.  I looked up the painted churches of Texas.  Schulenburg?  That’ll work!I packed up and drove an hour and a half to the tiny town, hoping to make it in time to browse through the Stanzel Model Aircraft Museum.

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Victor Stanzel started building and selling model airplanes in his family’s Schulenburg barn in the 1920s.  He expanded the business quickly, completely reinventing the model airplane and eventually was inducted in to the Academy of Model Aeronautics Hall of Fame.

The museum is open Mon., Wed., Fri. and Sat. from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  I made it there in plenty of time, but when I arrived, the museum was closed.

Instead I moved on to the first of my list of area painted churches.  Schulenburg is home to four of many painted churches in central Texas.

These churches were built by Czech and German immigrants, who moved to Texas in the mid-1800s.  Often the church would be the center meeting place for the community, so great care and priority was put in to building and maintaining them.

My first stop was St. Mary’s Church of the Assumption.  (821 FM 1295, Flatonia, TX 78941-5016)

It’s about 10-15 min. west of Schulenburg on Hwy 90.  If you head that direction, you’ll see the steeple on the horizon.  It’s hard to miss.

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St. Mary’s was built in 1895, but the outside looks modern.  It’s large and made of stone, which is kind of impressive when you think about when it was built and the tools that were available at the time.

As you enter, there’s a small cameo above the door that gives you a clue as to what you’re about to see.

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Then you open the door and wow!  It’s a beautiful place.

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Maybe it’s because it’s the first painted church I saw, or maybe it’s because of the beautiful blue and red and yellow hues, but this one was my favorite.

I spent a lot of time marveling at the ceiling before I could even wrap my brain around the smaller details.

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When I could focus again, I noticed the immaculate care that was put in to the painting of the figures.

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Then, finally, my eyes noticed the stained glass windows.

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When I finished inside, I wandered in the cemetery behind the chapel, then got back in the car and drove to my next destination – Nativity of Mary, Blessed Virgin Catholic Church.  (2833 FM 2672, Schulenburg, TX 78956-5603)

This one looked modern as well.  I’d never guess the brick building was built in 1906.

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At the time, most Catholic churches in Texas were built in a Spanish mission style, but German and Czech settlers preferred a more Gothic style.

This style is definitely evident when you walk inside.

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It’s the most ornate church I visited.  It was also the darkest.  Definitely bring a tripod or a flash if you’re planning on taking photos in this church.  I think this was a 15 sec. exposure.

Shortly after I arrived, a woman came in to lock up the building.  I took a few frames, but then, unfortunately, had to leave.  It was getting dark outside, though, and my exposures were getting longer and longer.  Before I left I tried to get a better view of the beautiful ceiling.

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The sun was setting, but the cold rain clouds blocked any color from showing on the horizon.

To get to these churches, I drove past many ranches and saw lots of cattle.  There’s something about an old barn and a windmill on the side of a country road that just calls to me.

There was one place in particular that beckoned me to stop and take a picture.  I parked my car and walked along the barbed wire fence to find a good angle, when suddenly I spotted a cow in the distance.  We both froze for a second, then it gave me a loud MOOO and walked toward me.  Two of it’s friends followed closer and closer until they stopped about 15 feet away.

I took some photos as they trotted over, then knelt down to take this shot as they flipped their ears.

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The one in the foreground met me at the fence and let me pat her head before I left.  They seemed like happy cows.

That night I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express.  It’s not my usual choice of accommodations for these 24inTX trips, but last minute planning landed me there.  (For the record, I love Holiday Inn Express, but I try to find somewhere with more character to write about for this blog.)

I checked in around 6:30 and brought in my things before heading out to eat dinner.  If you’ve ever been to Schulenburg, you know that it’s a tiny town.  There’s no restaurant row or dining guide.  What you see is what you get.

I tried Frank’s Restaurant for dinner.  For most people, it’s your basic upscale diner that hasn’t changed since the 60’s.  For me, it was like walking back in to my grandparent’s kitchen.  The brown and orange decor, the brick wall and the old pictures.  Piano music played softly and the few people there on a cold Monday night chatted politely.

I ordered a salad, a steak and a baked potato.  The food was about what you’d expect.  Good for a diner.  When it came time for dessert, I had to order pie.  Coconut, in honor of my granddad.

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After a lovely, relaxing meal, I retired to my hotel room and checked the weather.  It looked like the ice was supposed to come through around 5 a.m.  I turned up the heat before I went to bed, and didn’t bother trying to think of a place to shoot the sunrise.

I woke up around 6:30 a.m. and looked outside.  It looked cold and dark, but no ice.  I woke up again at 7:30 a.m.  Still no ice.  Around 8:15 a.m. housekeeping knocked on the door and I looked outside again.  The ice was falling, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for.

I was hoping to brave the elements in search of a winter wonderland photo of cows in the snow or a barn covered in a blanket of snow, maybe some barbed wire coated in ice.  Instead it looked like sleet.

I took my time eating breakfast, getting ready and checking out, waiting for the temperature to rise a few degrees before I got on the road.

When I finally got in the car, my windshield had a thick coat of ice.  Good thing I carry an ice scraper!  (Who made fun of me recently for keeping that in my glove compartment?  You know who you are…)

Defrosted, I headed north to Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church.  From I-10, drive north on FM 1383.  You’ll see the steeple on the horizon.  It’s a lovely drive.

The church was built after the community’s first church was destroyed in a hurricane in 1909.  The $5500 building was funded by the community and was topped with an iron cross that was made by a local freed slave for the original steeple.

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It was 27 degrees outside and sleeting when I got there.  The outside of this church is beautiful.  The quintessential painted church exterior.  I was excited to go inside, and not just because of the weather.

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I opened the door and was greeted with this…

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A locked gate prevented me from walking in to the sanctuary.

It was disappointing because I think this church could have easily been my favorite, could I have walked further inside.  I took a few photos through the bars.

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I shivered back to my car and drove to the final church on my agenda – St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.  Continue east on FM 1383, you’ll see it.  (7745 Mensik Rd., Schulenburg, TX 78956-5724)

Like Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church, the original St. John the Baptist Church that stood in this community was also destroyed by a hurricane in 1909.  A Victorian style church was built in it’s place, but that church burned in 1917.  The current structure was completed in 1919 and is much simpler.

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This church is very distinctive.  It’s called the pink church, for obvious reasons.

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Unlike the previous church, this one was seemingly all access.  The stairs up to the choir loft weren’t blocked like the rest of the churches, just a small sign that said, “please do not enter the choir loft.”  I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to ever ignore that and walk up the stairs for a better view.

I have to say that the ropes in the bell tower were awfully tempting, but I refrained.

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I walked around the sanctuary, soaking in the details.

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Then I walked up to the alter and saw the ornate statuary.

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Just below that, hidden behind the offering table, was a relief sculpture of the last supper.  Almost like a secret in the pulpit.  I looked around to make sure I was alone, then crouched behind the table to get a closer look.

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It was just before 1:00 p.m. when I finished there.  Time for lunch.

I chose Kountry Bakery.  They’re known for their kolaches, pies and pastries, but they have a decent lunch menu with soups, sandwiches and burgers.  They were out of soup that day due to the weather, so I ordered a hot turkey and cheese sandwich on a croissant.  It was delicious, and I got to catch up on local gossip.

After lunch I sampled some pastries and cautiously drove home.  By that time the ice had melted from I-10, and I made it home safely.

Here are a few links to help you plan your trip:
Schulenburg  (chamber web site, including attractions that weren’t open during my visit)
The Painted Churches of Texas  (KLRU’s guide, including a map and histories)
The Stanzel Model Aircraft Museum  (official web site)
Frank’s Restuarant  (Google review, map)
Kountry Bakery  (official web site)

 

 

 

One comment on “SCHULENBURG
  1. jp thomas says:

    Thank you ashley for braving the elements and bring us a other wonderful segment ,
    Your photography is incredible , making the painted church’s come alive is such a wonderful joy ,
    Look forward to the 24intx .
    JP

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