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Long forgotten masterpieces rediscovered in Fayetteville parish

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  • Vanessa Burzynski
    This article appeared in today s (Saturday) Houston Chronicle. It was also featured on the Channel 11 news here in Houston, Texas. Nov. 28, 2003, 10:52PM
    Message 1 of 4 , Nov 29, 2003
      This article appeared in today's (Saturday) Houston Chronicle. It was
      also featured on the Channel 11 news here in Houston, Texas.


      Nov. 28, 2003, 10:52PM


      Long-forgotten masterpieces rediscovered in Fayetteville parish
      By TARA DOOLEY
      Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle Religion Writer

      FAYETTE County has long been known for its four churches with painted
      interiors that showcase the influence of 19th-century Czech
      immigrants on the rolling countryside leading to the Texas Hill
      Country.

      But if Ammannsville, Dubina, High Hill and Praha were home to
      the "painted churches," Fayetteville had the church with the
      paintings, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.

      Except the paintings were nowhere to be found. For 35 years, six
      works painted in the late 1800s in the homeland of the Czech
      immigrants who inhabited Fayetteville were mere rumors of a colorful
      past.

      But with the help of a new parish priest, church members dedicated to
      preserving the town's ethnic heritage, and art professionals in
      Houston, the paintings have been rediscovered. Church officials are
      not saying how much they are worth, but it's enough to start locking
      the church doors.

      Returned to the walls of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, these
      works have attracted tourists to this old-fashioned town of 261
      residents.

      "This thing fascinated me from the time they found the (first)
      painting," said church member Tom Pearson. "I was just in awe, the
      beauty of it. The blessing that we found it. This is the church's
      heritage."

      It's a story that would turn any Antiques Roadshow junkie green with
      envy. It begins shortly after the Rev. Jack Maddux Jr. took up his
      post in Fayetteville in June 2002.

      Maddux decided to "make a nest" for himself in a previously unused
      part of the rectory. As he cleared out an extra bedroom, he
      discovered a 36-by-49-inch painting hidden behind an old dresser and
      mirror.

      "I pulled it out and said, `This is beautiful,' " Maddux said. "I set
      it up and admired it for a few days."

      Though no art historian, Maddux had taken some painting classes as a
      college student. He could tell that the faded blue Madonna holding
      the Christ child and handing a rosary to St. Dominic had been put to
      canvas by a painter of skill.

      Before deciding what to do with the painting, which some are calling
      Holy Mother of the Rosary, Maddux asked a parishioner to see whether
      it was worth cleaning up and framing.

      It wound up in the hands of Jerry Avera of Houston's Allart Framing
      and Gallery. Avera looked up the artist, Johann Ignaz Berger, in a
      French reference book and discovered that he was a prolific Czech
      ecclesiastical painter of the 19th century.

      Avera called in Antonio Loro, a painter, appraiser and restorer who
      with his wife runs St. Mark Fine Arts Conservation on West Alabama.

      Loro looked beyond the age and neglect of the painting and recognized
      dark, rich colors typical of Moravia, once part of the Austro-
      Hungarian Empire. He was impressed with the artist's sense of
      composition, balance and symbolism. After five other paintings were
      found at different locations, he paid a visit to the parish to let
      its members know that they had discovered treasures.

      "To me, this painting belongs (in) a museum," said Loro, a native of
      Italy and a third-generation art restorer. "They are very lucky to
      have them."

      The paintings may be good enough to hang on museum walls, but their
      history connects them to Fayetteville and the church, and they belong
      in their original home, longtime parishioners said.

      Indeed, the paintings were tied to the founding of the church in
      1870, a labor of devotion by a small farming community of Czech
      immigrants.

      When Czechs arrived in the area in the mid-19th century, they joined
      a community made up predominantly of German speakers, said Irene
      Polansky, a church member who founded the town's history museum with
      her late husband, Louis. After negotiating with the Catholic bishop,
      then seated in Galveston, the small congregation was promised a Czech
      priest. In 1872, he arrived from Moravia.

      As the church was being built, members of the Catholic community
      donated items for it, including the paintings. How and when the
      paintings found their way to a small Texas town remains unclear.

      Loro's wife, Gretchen Van Atta Loro, believes that one of the Czech
      immigrants probably knew the painter back in the old country and
      commissioned the works.

      "It is so rare to find original artwork in any American church," she
      said. "To find this small country church with original art is mind-
      boggling."

      Over the years, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church changed forms. A
      new building was consecrated in 1912, according to a history of the
      church researched by Louis "Buddy" Polansky, who died last month. The
      Czech paintings were hung in the new building.

      In 1969, a new building was constructed to conform with the
      prescriptions of the recently completed Second Vatican Council.
      Statues such as the large angels offering holy water were removed.
      The six gold-framed paintings disappeared.

      When Maddux found the painting in the rectory, artworks that had
      spent decades stored on church property and in the hands of other
      church organizations began to emerge, often covered with the grime of
      age.

      One painting -- the 56-by-89-inch painting of St. Martin of Tours --
      was found behind the altar of St. Martin's Catholic Church, a little
      wood church in Warrenton. The other rediscovered paintings included a
      49-by-104-inch depiction of St. John the Baptist and Jesus, a scene
      of St. Cyril and St. Methodius, another of St. Peter and St. Paul,
      and one of Our Lady Queen of Heaven.

      "It is so unlikely that any of this happened," said Gretchen Van Atta
      Loro. "That is what makes it so interesting."

      And expensive.

      The church paid Antonio Loro to restore the paintings and Avera to
      make 22-karat gold leaf, hand-carved frames. Avera said the
      tabernacle frame for St. John the Baptist measures 6 by 11 1/2 feet
      and weighs 600 pounds. The restoration involved two to three people
      working two months on each of five of the paintings, Loro said. One
      painting could not be restored and had to be re-created.

      The church also reconstructed the wall behind the altar to display
      the rediscovered treasures, and that led to hefty costs for mold
      remediation and air-conditioning work. The total cost of the project
      was about $500,000.

      "It was a strain, because I was the one who had to sign all the
      checks," the parish priest said. "Every time I turned around, there
      was a bill."

      Not everyone in the parish of nearly 300 families was convinced that
      this was the best way to spend church funds, church members said. But
      others were inspired by the paintings' connection to the town's and
      the church's proud Czech past, said longtime church member Helen
      Mikus.

      "I think it will make people aware of the heritage of their
      grandparents, because they sacrificed to send over for the
      paintings," she said.
    • Lidia
      Thankyou so much for posting this Vanessa. I missed the Sat. Chronicle & the tv feature as well, as I was on the road. Lidia Kellum researching: Hovezak,
      Message 2 of 4 , Dec 1, 2003
        Thankyou so much for posting this Vanessa. I missed the Sat. Chronicle &
        the tv feature as well, as I was on the road. Lidia Kellum researching:
        Hovezak, Schramek, Sramek, Janecek
        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Vanessa Burzynski" <burzynsk@...>
        To: <TexasCzechs@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Saturday, November 29, 2003 2:06 PM
        Subject: [TexasCzechs] Long forgotten masterpieces rediscovered in
        Fayetteville parish


        > This article appeared in today's (Saturday) Houston Chronicle. It was
        > also featured on the Channel 11 news here in Houston, Texas.
        >
        >
        > Nov. 28, 2003, 10:52PM
        >
        >
        > Long-forgotten masterpieces rediscovered in Fayetteville parish
        > By TARA DOOLEY
        > Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle Religion Writer
        >
        > FAYETTE County has long been known for its four churches with painted
        > interiors that showcase the influence of 19th-century Czech
        > immigrants on the rolling countryside leading to the Texas Hill
        > Country.
        >
        > But if Ammannsville, Dubina, High Hill and Praha were home to
        > the "painted churches," Fayetteville had the church with the
        > paintings, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.
        >
        > Except the paintings were nowhere to be found. For 35 years, six
        > works painted in the late 1800s in the homeland of the Czech
        > immigrants who inhabited Fayetteville were mere rumors of a colorful
        > past.
        >
        > But with the help of a new parish priest, church members dedicated to
        > preserving the town's ethnic heritage, and art professionals in
        > Houston, the paintings have been rediscovered. Church officials are
        > not saying how much they are worth, but it's enough to start locking
        > the church doors.
        >
        > Returned to the walls of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, these
        > works have attracted tourists to this old-fashioned town of 261
        > residents.
        >
        > "This thing fascinated me from the time they found the (first)
        > painting," said church member Tom Pearson. "I was just in awe, the
        > beauty of it. The blessing that we found it. This is the church's
        > heritage."
        >
        > It's a story that would turn any Antiques Roadshow junkie green with
        > envy. It begins shortly after the Rev. Jack Maddux Jr. took up his
        > post in Fayetteville in June 2002.
        >
        > Maddux decided to "make a nest" for himself in a previously unused
        > part of the rectory. As he cleared out an extra bedroom, he
        > discovered a 36-by-49-inch painting hidden behind an old dresser and
        > mirror.
        >
        > "I pulled it out and said, `This is beautiful,' " Maddux said. "I set
        > it up and admired it for a few days."
        >
        > Though no art historian, Maddux had taken some painting classes as a
        > college student. He could tell that the faded blue Madonna holding
        > the Christ child and handing a rosary to St. Dominic had been put to
        > canvas by a painter of skill.
        >
        > Before deciding what to do with the painting, which some are calling
        > Holy Mother of the Rosary, Maddux asked a parishioner to see whether
        > it was worth cleaning up and framing.
        >
        > It wound up in the hands of Jerry Avera of Houston's Allart Framing
        > and Gallery. Avera looked up the artist, Johann Ignaz Berger, in a
        > French reference book and discovered that he was a prolific Czech
        > ecclesiastical painter of the 19th century.
        >
        > Avera called in Antonio Loro, a painter, appraiser and restorer who
        > with his wife runs St. Mark Fine Arts Conservation on West Alabama.
        >
        > Loro looked beyond the age and neglect of the painting and recognized
        > dark, rich colors typical of Moravia, once part of the Austro-
        > Hungarian Empire. He was impressed with the artist's sense of
        > composition, balance and symbolism. After five other paintings were
        > found at different locations, he paid a visit to the parish to let
        > its members know that they had discovered treasures.
        >
        > "To me, this painting belongs (in) a museum," said Loro, a native of
        > Italy and a third-generation art restorer. "They are very lucky to
        > have them."
        >
        > The paintings may be good enough to hang on museum walls, but their
        > history connects them to Fayetteville and the church, and they belong
        > in their original home, longtime parishioners said.
        >
        > Indeed, the paintings were tied to the founding of the church in
        > 1870, a labor of devotion by a small farming community of Czech
        > immigrants.
        >
        > When Czechs arrived in the area in the mid-19th century, they joined
        > a community made up predominantly of German speakers, said Irene
        > Polansky, a church member who founded the town's history museum with
        > her late husband, Louis. After negotiating with the Catholic bishop,
        > then seated in Galveston, the small congregation was promised a Czech
        > priest. In 1872, he arrived from Moravia.
        >
        > As the church was being built, members of the Catholic community
        > donated items for it, including the paintings. How and when the
        > paintings found their way to a small Texas town remains unclear.
        >
        > Loro's wife, Gretchen Van Atta Loro, believes that one of the Czech
        > immigrants probably knew the painter back in the old country and
        > commissioned the works.
        >
        > "It is so rare to find original artwork in any American church," she
        > said. "To find this small country church with original art is mind-
        > boggling."
        >
        > Over the years, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church changed forms. A
        > new building was consecrated in 1912, according to a history of the
        > church researched by Louis "Buddy" Polansky, who died last month. The
        > Czech paintings were hung in the new building.
        >
        > In 1969, a new building was constructed to conform with the
        > prescriptions of the recently completed Second Vatican Council.
        > Statues such as the large angels offering holy water were removed.
        > The six gold-framed paintings disappeared.
        >
        > When Maddux found the painting in the rectory, artworks that had
        > spent decades stored on church property and in the hands of other
        > church organizations began to emerge, often covered with the grime of
        > age.
        >
        > One painting -- the 56-by-89-inch painting of St. Martin of Tours --
        > was found behind the altar of St. Martin's Catholic Church, a little
        > wood church in Warrenton. The other rediscovered paintings included a
        > 49-by-104-inch depiction of St. John the Baptist and Jesus, a scene
        > of St. Cyril and St. Methodius, another of St. Peter and St. Paul,
        > and one of Our Lady Queen of Heaven.
        >
        > "It is so unlikely that any of this happened," said Gretchen Van Atta
        > Loro. "That is what makes it so interesting."
        >
        > And expensive.
        >
        > The church paid Antonio Loro to restore the paintings and Avera to
        > make 22-karat gold leaf, hand-carved frames. Avera said the
        > tabernacle frame for St. John the Baptist measures 6 by 11 1/2 feet
        > and weighs 600 pounds. The restoration involved two to three people
        > working two months on each of five of the paintings, Loro said. One
        > painting could not be restored and had to be re-created.
        >
        > The church also reconstructed the wall behind the altar to display
        > the rediscovered treasures, and that led to hefty costs for mold
        > remediation and air-conditioning work. The total cost of the project
        > was about $500,000.
        >
        > "It was a strain, because I was the one who had to sign all the
        > checks," the parish priest said. "Every time I turned around, there
        > was a bill."
        >
        > Not everyone in the parish of nearly 300 families was convinced that
        > this was the best way to spend church funds, church members said. But
        > others were inspired by the paintings' connection to the town's and
        > the church's proud Czech past, said longtime church member Helen
        > Mikus.
        >
        > "I think it will make people aware of the heritage of their
        > grandparents, because they sacrificed to send over for the
        > paintings," she said.
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
        > texasczechs-unsubscribe@egroups.com
        > Remember: You can alway set your account to Digest Mode for less mail.
        >
        >
        >
        > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
        >
        >
      • Tricia Burt
        Hello! How are you related to Janeceks? My maiden name is Janecek, although the family name was originally Janecka before coming to America. ... === message
        Message 3 of 4 , Dec 3, 2003
          Hello! How are you related to Janeceks? My maiden name
          is Janecek, although the family name was originally
          Janecka before coming to America.

          --- Lidia <lmkellum@...> wrote:
          > Thankyou so much for posting this Vanessa. I missed
          > the Sat. Chronicle &
          > the tv feature as well, as I was on the road. Lidia
          > Kellum researching:
          > Hovezak, Schramek, Sramek, Janecek
          > ----- Original Message -----
          > From: "Vanessa Burzynski" <burzynsk@...>
          > To: <TexasCzechs@yahoogroups.com>
          > Sent: Saturday, November 29, 2003 2:06 PM
          > Subject: [TexasCzechs] Long forgotten masterpieces
          > rediscovered in
          > Fayetteville parish
          >
          >
          > > This article appeared in today's (Saturday)
          > Houston Chronicle. It was
          > > also featured on the Channel 11 news here in
          > Houston, Texas.
          > >
          > >
          > > Nov. 28, 2003, 10:52PM
          > >
          > >
          > > Long-forgotten masterpieces rediscovered in
          > Fayetteville parish
          > > By TARA DOOLEY
          > > Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle Religion Writer
          > >
          > > FAYETTE County has long been known for its four
          > churches with painted
          > > interiors that showcase the influence of
          > 19th-century Czech
          > > immigrants on the rolling countryside leading to
          > the Texas Hill
          > > Country.
          > >
          > > But if Ammannsville, Dubina, High Hill and Praha
          > were home to
          > > the "painted churches," Fayetteville had the
          > church with the
          > > paintings, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.
          > >
          > > Except the paintings were nowhere to be found. For
          > 35 years, six
          > > works painted in the late 1800s in the homeland of
          > the Czech
          > > immigrants who inhabited Fayetteville were mere
          > rumors of a colorful
          > > past.
          > >
          > > But with the help of a new parish priest, church
          > members dedicated to
          > > preserving the town's ethnic heritage, and art
          > professionals in
          > > Houston, the paintings have been rediscovered.
          > Church officials are
          > > not saying how much they are worth, but it's
          > enough to start locking
          > > the church doors.
          > >
          > > Returned to the walls of St. John the Baptist
          > Catholic Church, these
          > > works have attracted tourists to this
          > old-fashioned town of 261
          > > residents.
          > >
          > > "This thing fascinated me from the time they found
          > the (first)
          > > painting," said church member Tom Pearson. "I was
          > just in awe, the
          > > beauty of it. The blessing that we found it. This
          > is the church's
          > > heritage."
          > >
          > > It's a story that would turn any Antiques Roadshow
          > junkie green with
          > > envy. It begins shortly after the Rev. Jack Maddux
          > Jr. took up his
          > > post in Fayetteville in June 2002.
          > >
          > > Maddux decided to "make a nest" for himself in a
          > previously unused
          > > part of the rectory. As he cleared out an extra
          > bedroom, he
          > > discovered a 36-by-49-inch painting hidden behind
          > an old dresser and
          > > mirror.
          > >
          > > "I pulled it out and said, `This is beautiful,' "
          > Maddux said. "I set
          > > it up and admired it for a few days."
          > >
          > > Though no art historian, Maddux had taken some
          > painting classes as a
          > > college student. He could tell that the faded blue
          > Madonna holding
          > > the Christ child and handing a rosary to St.
          > Dominic had been put to
          > > canvas by a painter of skill.
          > >
          > > Before deciding what to do with the painting,
          > which some are calling
          > > Holy Mother of the Rosary, Maddux asked a
          > parishioner to see whether
          > > it was worth cleaning up and framing.
          > >
          > > It wound up in the hands of Jerry Avera of
          > Houston's Allart Framing
          > > and Gallery. Avera looked up the artist, Johann
          > Ignaz Berger, in a
          > > French reference book and discovered that he was a
          > prolific Czech
          > > ecclesiastical painter of the 19th century.
          > >
          > > Avera called in Antonio Loro, a painter, appraiser
          > and restorer who
          > > with his wife runs St. Mark Fine Arts Conservation
          > on West Alabama.
          > >
          > > Loro looked beyond the age and neglect of the
          > painting and recognized
          > > dark, rich colors typical of Moravia, once part of
          > the Austro-
          > > Hungarian Empire. He was impressed with the
          > artist's sense of
          > > composition, balance and symbolism. After five
          > other paintings were
          > > found at different locations, he paid a visit to
          > the parish to let
          > > its members know that they had discovered
          > treasures.
          > >
          > > "To me, this painting belongs (in) a museum," said
          > Loro, a native of
          > > Italy and a third-generation art restorer. "They
          > are very lucky to
          > > have them."
          > >
          > > The paintings may be good enough to hang on museum
          > walls, but their
          > > history connects them to Fayetteville and the
          > church, and they belong
          > > in their original home, longtime parishioners
          > said.
          > >
          > > Indeed, the paintings were tied to the founding of
          > the church in
          > > 1870, a labor of devotion by a small farming
          > community of Czech
          > > immigrants.
          > >
          > > When Czechs arrived in the area in the mid-19th
          > century, they joined
          > > a community made up predominantly of German
          > speakers, said Irene
          > > Polansky, a church member who founded the town's
          > history museum with
          > > her late husband, Louis. After negotiating with
          > the Catholic bishop,
          > > then seated in Galveston, the small congregation
          > was promised a Czech
          > > priest. In 1872, he arrived from Moravia.
          > >
          > > As the church was being built, members of the
          > Catholic community
          > > donated items for it, including the paintings. How
          > and when the
          > > paintings found their way to a small Texas town
          > remains unclear.
          > >
          > > Loro's wife, Gretchen Van Atta Loro, believes that
          > one of the Czech
          > > immigrants probably knew the painter back in the
          > old country and
          > > commissioned the works.
          > >
          > > "It is so rare to find original artwork in any
          > American church," she
          > > said. "To find this small country church with
          > original art is mind-
          > > boggling."
          > >
          > > Over the years, St. John the Baptist Catholic
          > Church changed forms. A
          > > new building was consecrated in 1912, according to
          > a history of the
          > > church researched by Louis "Buddy" Polansky, who
          > died last month. The
          > > Czech paintings were hung in the new building.
          > >
          > > In 1969, a new building was constructed to conform
          > with the
          > > prescriptions of the recently completed Second
          > Vatican Council.
          > > Statues such as the large angels offering holy
          > water were removed.
          > > The six gold-framed paintings disappeared.
          > >
          > > When Maddux found the painting in the rectory,
          > artworks that had
          > > spent decades stored on church property and in the
          > hands
          === message truncated ===


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        • Vanessa Burzynski
          I have some Janecka s in my family tree too. Charles, Jerry, George, Edward, Lillian, and Dorothy Janecka are all brothers and sisters. I do not know who their
          Message 4 of 4 , Dec 3, 2003
            I have some Janecka's in my family tree too.
             
            Charles, Jerry, George, Edward, Lillian, and Dorothy Janecka are all brothers and sisters. I do not know who their parents are. Charles Janecka married Doris Bohac and have a son named Gregory.
             
            Vanessa

            Tricia Burt <angelwriter98@...> wrote:
            Hello! How are you related to Janeceks? My maiden name
            is Janecek, although the family name was originally
            Janecka before coming to America.

            --- Lidia <lmkellum@...> wrote:
            > Thankyou so much for posting this Vanessa.  I missed
            > the Sat. Chronicle &
            > the tv feature as well, as I was on the road.  Lidia
            > Kellum researching:
            > Hovezak, Schramek, Sramek, Janecek
          Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.