Imagining a Cathedral

wesley_brethren_church_2013The first Protestant Czech-Moravian congregation in North America built its one-room church of hand-hewn logs in 1866. The tiny community, originally called Veseli meaning “joyous,” had already opened the first Czech school in Texas in 1859, soon after they settled on farmland eight miles south of Brenham. Their pastor was expected to do double-duty as teacher in the little church building.

Reverend Bohuslav Emil Laciak, serving as teacher and pastor in 1888, began painting the interior of the wood building using an art technique called trompe l’ oeil, a method of creating realistic imagery in three dimensions to give the impression of a basilica-style cathedral. He painted rustic-appearing brick walls that rise to the top of the windows. He produced an area above the pulpit that appears to be an apse hosting a gold chalice. The walls are circled by images of columns and arches. The ceiling is colored blue and edged with a geometric chain pattern.

Unfortunately, Reverend Laciak was killed in an 1891 hunting accident before he explained the meaning of his work, although he clearly had not completed his creation because the outlines of more designs are still visible. The congregation believes the bricks, individually highlighted in black, depict the strength of the walls of Jerusalem. The Star of David atop white pillars casting dark shadows remind congregants of the pillars of Solomon’s Temple. The chalice symbolizes the blood of Christ and the continuous chain design around the edge of the ceiling represents the unbroken link of brotherhood. The word “Busnami,” above the pulpit area translates as “God with Us.”wesley_pic3

Czech immigrants, searching for cheap land and more opportunities, began arriving in Texas in the 1850s. Although most of them were Roman Catholics, ten to fifteen percent were Protestant and most of those were United Brethren who came to Texas after generations of persecution in their homeland. They held worship services in homes until they built this little one-room chapel. The building was enlarged and the steeple added in 1883. One hundred years later, the congregation built a new church next door, which serves a community of about sixty. The “log church cathedral,” listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is open as a museum reminding all Czech-Moravians of their rich heritage.

Log Church Cathedral

A one-room log church sits on a lane leading off a country road in Wesley a farming community between Houston and Austin. Wesley boasts the first Czech school in Texas that started here in 1859 when the town was called Veseli meaning “joyous.” The church building, erected in 1866, housed the community school and the place of worship for the first Czech-Moravian congregation in Texas.

photo credit: Alan Oaks, C.S.P.

photo credit: Alan Oaks, C.S.P.

Rev. Bohuslav Emil Lacjak, serving as teacher and pastor in 1888, began painting the interior of the wood building using an art technique called trompe l’ oeil, a method of creating realistic imagery in three dimensions to give the impression of a basilica-style cathedral, which resulted in rustic-appearing brick walls, columns, and geometric decorative patterns.

photo credit: Alan Oaks, C.S.P.

photo credit: Alan Oaks, C.S.P.

Unfortunately, Rev. Lacjak was killed in 1891 in a hunting accident before he could explain the meaning of his work, although he clearly had not completed his creation because the outlines of more designs are still visible.  The congregation believes the gray bricks highlighted in black that stretch to the top of the windows depict the strength of the walls of Jerusalem.  The Star of David atop white pillars casting dark shadows remind congregants of the pillars of Solomon’s Temple.  The continuous chain design around the edge of the ceiling represents the unbroken link of brotherhood and the word “Busnami,” above the pulpit area translates as “God with Us.”

Photo credit: Alan Oaks, C.S.P.

Photo credit: Alan Oaks, C.S.P.

Czech immigrants, searching for cheap land, began arriving in Texas in the 1850s. Although most of them were Roman Catholics, ten to fifteen percent were Protestant and most of those were United Brethren who came to Texas after generations of persecution by the Catholic Church in their homeland. They held worship services in homes until they built this little one-room chapel.  The building was enlarged and the steeple added in 1883.  One hundred years later, the congregation built a new church next door, which serves a community of about sixty.  The “log church cathedral,” listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is open as a museum reminding all Czech-Moravians of their rich heritage.