Small Texas towns. What’s not to like about them? Maybe it’s a special shop, restaurant, historical site or the town “character” you meet at the gas station that makes the visit memorable. But, on this day it was more. It was the white limestone church on the hill with its steeple towering above twisted old trees. It was the historic Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Round Top.
Dedicated in 1866, the church was designed in an old world style by Carl Bauer, a German immigrant who moved to Texas along with so many others during that time. The $2,400 cash needed to construct the building was collected by the congregation and all the inside furnishings – from the altar covering to the massive pulpit Bible and Crucifix – were donated.
For more than 140-years, music has lifted high into the sky around Round Top every Sunday from the handmade cedar pipe organ that still plays from the balcony overlooking the sanctuary. Its 408 hand-shaped pipes were crafted from cedar trees grown nearby.
On the gently sloping turf to the rear is the church cemetery. There are the headstones marking the final resting places of church founders, Texas war veterans, children taken by illness and more. It’s the history of Round Top there to ponder.
As impressive as the building, its contents, and its long history are, one element within the church spoke to me like no other; God’s glass . . . the stained glass windows that have inspired congregations for generations.
Shades of blue and purple are wrapped in bands of gold and orange. Diamond shaped panels spray a rainbow of colors onto worshippers seated in the well-worn wooden pews below.
Each window displays its own distinctive biblical message in a circular pattern among the diamonds. One features a lamb and pennant, another a cross and crown, and a third displays an open bible with the Greek letters Alpha and Omega. The image of two carved stone tablets with the Roman numerals “I, II, III, IV . . . X” share another window with crossed trumpets announcing “Ye Praise the Lord”. It is an emotionally moving display of spiritual art created by devout German believers in small town Texas at the end of the Civil War.
The Bethlehem Lutheran Church is at 409 S. White Street, just a block or two off Highway 237 in Round Top. You can’t miss it . . . just look for the steeple on the hill and God’s glass in the walls.
Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin’ Man
Always check TourTexas.com for Texas Tourist Information, Texas Travel Information, Texas City Maps and more.