Friday, February 3, 2017

Painted Churches of Texas II: St. Mary's of High Hill

The next painted church from the rural ring around Austin, TX is Saint Mary's of High Hill, built to serve the German community. Like St. Mary of the Assumption, the community is 150 years old, but the current structure is a few decades newer. St. Mary's of High Hill is not on a high hill; rather the builders picked the name to recall the rolling topography of their native land.

Locals call St. Mary's of High Hill the "Queen of Painted Churches" on account of its varied colors, considerable imagery, and slightly larger scale when contrasted with the neighboring parishes. Stained glass from the older, 1869 church adorns the current building. Unlike the gilded Czech church in Flatonia, the softer, darker wood create a more somber mood.

The style follows the 19th century fashion of Marian and Josephite altars with a Sacred Heart statue somewhere near the altar. The baptismal font has been relocated according to the Pian-Pauline novelties.

The greater size of the church permits a greater variety of statuary, images, and nook for devotion. Statues of Roman virgin martyrs (Cecilia and Agnes come to mind) grace the northern columns inside the church while medieval mendicants (Francis, Anthony) stand over the south pillars. Saints became more modern towards the front of the parish.

"I will go to the altar of God, God Who makes joyful my youth" was inscribed in the German tongue in the narthex of the church. One must not neglect to remember the role of Germany in vernacularizing the Roman Mass, originating the dialogue Mass and obtaining the first legal concession to read the lessons in the local tongue from the altar (the French had been doing it outside the rubrics for some time).

While a more impressive church than its cohort in Flatonia, this author prefers the cheery openness of St. Mary of the Assumption. Still, who knew Texas had such gems?


  1. What is the Pauline novelty you speak of?

    1. I have found no directives on the placing of the font. And as far as liturgical commentary goes, it favors the traditional arrangement...

  2. The image second to last could just plain and simply be titled: "Sunday morning.". That's just the gut feeling i get from it.

  3. Ah!.. and the Archangels on each side of the Altar! Love it!
    I see a church should be luminous yet shadowed, to recall the state of the Saints who are into the Fire of God, yet soothed.
    Also the shadow helps people not stare at each other like in a ballroom but be turned inwards to God. And stained glass stands out more. It is true that the warm weather of Texas helps in this case. In Northern weather a warmer range of colors compensates the cold light for most of year.