About St. John the Baptist Catholic Church (Ammannsville)
This gallery contains images from St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Ammannsville, one of the Painted Churches of Texas.
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, a 1918 statement in wood of the Gothic Revival style in rural Fayette county, stands out as the community's most significant building. The steeply gabled, rectangular form includes a polygonal apse projecting from its east end, and a soaring spire rising from a tall bell tower marking the central entrance at the west end. Prominent corner buttresses project from the front corners with lesser buttresses marking the remaining facades. Gabled and buttressed pavilions emphasize the side entrances. The walls are pierced with lancet windows occurring both singly and in pairs. The Gothic theme is carried further by steeply pitched ventilation dormers with louvered trefoil openings and ridge ornaments. Corner buttresses adorn the bell tower, the upper section of which is punctuated with louvered lancet openings and a lancet jigsawn detail applied in a manner that emulates corbeling. The octagonal spire rises dramatically from a profusion of pinnacles and dormers incorporating trefoil motifs and cross-and-trefoil ornaments. Today the church is covered with asbestos siding, however, the upper level of the bell tower reveals the original wood siding which is assumed to be intact under the asbestos.
While the exterior of St. John's is not unusual among the many Gothic Revival churches across the state, its distinct interior is outstanding for several reasons. Structurally the ceiling is composed of an unusual combination consisting of a high-pointed vault springing from two lesser, coved vaults. Aside from the unique structure of the ceiling, the church contains decorative painting which is more purely ornamental than any of the other churches in the thematic group. It incorporates stenciling, infill, freehand, and marbling techniques. The painting is executed with a simple color palette, and is dominated by one hue, a warm pink, which is offset by woodwork painted white.Rectangular panels defined with simple wooden dividers emphasize the ceiling's structural form, and the walls are divided into distinct horizontal sections. The rectangular panels of the ceiling are further defined by floral and foliate frameworks skillfully executed in varying shades of pink and blue-green. Simple stenciled borders fill in the structural beams of the ceiling. The upper wall is decorated with a large-scale motif that includes circular and interwoven leaf elements set against a diagonal lattice. Garlands hang below this. Stylized floral motifs are stencilled onto the wall in two distinct bands at dado heights. As is typical, the apse spandrel and the walls of the side altar bear the religious motifs. Two small cherubs flank a chalice as the focal point of the spandrel, with palm fronds and blossoms (including lilies) painted around them. Palm fronds also occur on the walls above the side altars. The pilasters along the walls are painted to produce the appearance of marble.
A good example of early 20th-century Carpenter Gothic architecture, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church is an impressive visual monument to the Czech pioneers who settled in the area around Ammannsville. The third church to occupy the site, it bespeaks the dedicated determination of these European immigrants. The handsome building is further distinguished with decorative interior painting, designed and executed by highly skilled artisans.
Andrew Ammann brought his family to the area in 1879, and was soon followed by other Czech settlers. The community, named Ammannsville in his honor, was soon established as an agricultural center for the surrounding farmlands. These early settlers were primarily Catholic, and first attended mass at nearby Hostyn, and later at a local residence, before erecting their own church. A small, frame edifice was completed and dedicated in 1890 on land donated by three parishioners, but was destroyed by a hurricane in 1909. The congregation decided to reconstruct, and hired the Matuscik Brothers as architect and builder. This larger, more elaborate frame church, designed in the Gothic Revival style, was dedicated in November of 1910, only to be consumed by fire in 1917. Undaunted, the congregation chose to build a third church and engaged John Bujnoch as architect and builder. The church was dedicated on December 22, 1919, and stands today as a charming example of Carpenter Gothic architecture. Though simply detailed, the church rises above the surrounding countryside, and is an impressive architectural landmark in this rural region. Interior painting, primarily decorative in intent, adorns the walls and ceiling of the church. The intricacy of design, sophisticated use of color, and skilled craftsmanship, indicate the work of professional artists. Warm pink is the dominant hue, and is used as a base color covered over with designs applied in varying values of pink and blue-green. It is interesting to note that the motifs are chiefly ornamental in inspiration, drawing heavily on foliated and floral forms, with only occasional subtle ecclesiastical references occurring in the apse and in the areas of the side altars. Little is known of the history of the painting, although it is believed to have been executed soon after completion of the structure.
Kennedy, C., Butler, L. F., & McCann, M. (1983). Churches in Texas with Decorative Interior Painting (National Register of Historic Places Thematic Nomination) (pp. 15-17) (United States, Texas Historical Commission).
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