That Ellis Island in New York was a main gateway into the US for a vast number of European immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries likely is no surprise to you. Maybe a bit surprising is that, from the mid-1800s to mid-1900s, more than twelve million immigrants passed through the portal. What I think surely will surprise you is that there is a “Second Ellis Island.”
Known as “The Ellis Island of the West,” Galveston is an island port on the Gulf of Mexico. Between 1865 and 1924, more than 200,000 immigrants came to the United States through Galveston – a very conservative estimate, according to scholars.
That marks Galveston as one of the 10 biggest immigration ports of 19th- and 20th-century America.
The immigrants came to escape the political instability, restrictive religious laws and deteriorating economic conditions of their homelands. They came find a better place to build their homes and raise their families. They also built churches and formed parishes that reflected their European heritage. Because of their beauty, vibrant colors and ornate, delicate decorations, these churches became known as the Painted Churches of Texas.
Recently, I visited one of the amazing Painted Churches of Texas – St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Plantersville. It was a side-trip in the course of my Marian Pilgrimage: Discovering Mary Across the USA. It’s not on the official list of sites, but I wanted to scope it out for future possibilities.
I’ve written about it in my latest post for National Catholic Register.
There you’ll find a more detailed description of St. Mary’s as well as more photos of this incredible masterpiece.
Below you’ll find pics that aren’t in the Register post. Some of the items are from the original church in 1894 and some from the rebuilt church in 1917 (lightening struck the bell tower and the first church burned to the ground). They all are treasures.
The Painted Churches of Texas are so much more than churches, so much more than skilled masterpieces. They’re living history and a testimony to our rich Catholic heritage in the United States!