About Guardian Angel Catholic Church (Wallis)
This gallery contains images of Guardian Angel Catholic Church in Wallis, one of the Painted Churches of Texas.
The Church of the Guardian Angel, a wood-frame, Gothic Revival edifice, is a striking piece of architecture in the rural, coastal-plains community of Wallis, Texas. Considerably more elaborate than typical frame churches in comparable communities, the building displays an unusual attention to the details of the Gothic Revival mode of design. Purely decorative buttresses adorn the corners and side walls of the church, which exhibits a basilica plan, central bell tower, and polygonal apse.
Dominating the main (entry) facade, a tall, rectangular bell tower with pinnacles and buttresses projects from the main body of the church. A lancet arch forms the transom above the double door, while a king-post truss and round columns enhance the porches on the front and side entrances. Further embellishment of the tower is provided by round and acute arch windows, jig-sawn lancet banding, and a steep-pitched, octagonal spire covered with metal shingles. The side walls are divided into five exterior bays, with each center division containing an entry door. The remaining bays are filled with paired lancet windows embellished with hood molds. A gable roof covers the rectangular mass of the structure and is pierced by three louvered gables which were added when the church was air conditioned. Projecting from the rear of the church is a polygonal apse with intersecting cross-gabled wings.
On the interior, Guardian Angel Catholic Church features a basilican plan with the nave divided from aisles by fluted wooden columns and an arched, truss system. A wainscot with lancet arch motif encircles the sanctuary, while the upper portion of the walls and ceiling are surfaced in beaded board. A choir loft is located at the rear of the nave. The system of interior divisions established by the columns forms the basis for the decorative scheme. Each ceiling panel over the nave and side aisles is divided into quadrants with a diamond-shaped panel in the middle. Every quadrant is centered with a white painted star, while the diamonds feature painted angels holding banners with wording in the Czech language.
Above the apse, the spandrel is decorated with a chalice surrounded by wheat and grapevines. The apse walls and ceiling are now plastered and painted in a pale green, with a simple motif of white rays following the shape of the apse. A dove is portrayed near the peak. Above the wainscot, a stenciled pattern in green, pink, and metallic gold is portrayed, with the Greek letters Alpha and Omega appearing on either side of the altar. The painting scheme has been altered from its original. In the early 1960s, the church was decorated by two German painters in the manner seen today, with dominant color scheme of pale green highlighted by metallic gold. From accounts of long-time members of the parish, the ceiling angels and stars are original. After a close examination of the stars, it is likely that their shape has been modified. A historic photograph which shows a portion of the apse and spandrel reveals a beaded-board surface in the apse, with a spandrel motif of two angels and an inscription in Latin.
In an oral interview, long-time church member Jerry Sliva indicated that the interior beams, wainscotting, and column bases were originally dark (either stained or painted). While the walls and ceilings were of a light color. Mr. Sliva remembered that the ceiling panels had additional decoration and that the apse was sky blue with painted star. Local tradition holds that the original painter was an immigrant, who died in the church before completing the interior decoration.
Constructed in 1913, the Church of the Guardian Angel in Wallis, Texas, is a fine example of wood-frame, Gothic Revival architecture. Both its interior and exterior reveal an attention to the appropriate Gothic detailing. Although alterations have occurred in the painting scheme, the extent of historic painting is great enough to provide added importance to this architecturally significant building.
The area near present-day Wallis was settled around 1890 by Czech immigrants who came from nearby Bluff (now Houston) and Dubina in Fayette County. For several years, religious services were conducted in the Krasna school by visiting priests. When the decision was made to erect a permanent religious edifice, the bishop in Galveston suggested that it be located near the railroad stop of Wallis for ease in travel and transportation. The town was named for J. E. Wallis, director of the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railroad. The first church, a simple frame structure, was destroyed by a cyclone in 1900. Four years later a new structure was erected. Growth of the parish over the next decade necessitated the construction of a larger building, the present church, which was completed and dedicated in 1913. Land for the church was donated by Francis V. Smid in 1892, and the first resident pastor was Rev. Francis Machan, in 1909. Church records indicate that in 1922 the parish had 200 families, a number which doubled by 1977.
Kennedy, C., Butler, L. F., & McCann, M. (1983). Churches in Texas with Decorative Interior Painting (National Register of Historic Places Thematic Nomination) (pp. 5-7) (United States, Texas Historical Commission).
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