From the outside, they look like many American country churches built around the turn of the last century -- arched Gothic Revival windows, facades clad in white frame siding or in stone, lone steeples rising up into the Texas sky.
Cross the threshold of these particular Texas churches and you'll encounter not a simple wooden interior but an unexpected profusion of color. Nearly every surface is covered with bright painting: exuberant murals radiate from the apse, elaborate foliage trails the walls, wooden columns and baseboards shine like polished marble in shades of green and gray. These are the Painted Churches of Texas.
Built by 19th century immigrants to this rough but promising territory, these churches transport the visitor back to a different era, a different way of life. Inscriptions on the walls read not in English, but in the mother tongue of those who built them: German and Czech. The story of these buildings is the story of a people striving to succeed in a new country and still preserve the values and culture of their homelands.
In 1984, 15 of these churches, with their unique style of art, were listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Once taken for granted, the painted churches of Texas, and the people who built them, are now capturing the interest of designers, historians and ordinary tourists, both in Texas and out of state.
The Painted Churches of Texas, Echoes of the Homeland was presented to PBS stations across the country in Spring 2001. KLRU-TV was the first to broadcast this documentary film in February 2001 and again in March 2001. This documentary was made possible by a generous grant from the Catholic Family Fraternal of Texas (KJZT).