Monday, June 2, 2008

World's Smallest Church

This post was originally written for Tuesday, May 27, but the tornado barged in and took over for awhile:

P.S. - Judy, in British Columbia, at her My Front Porch blog, is collecting travel post links this week. Visit there to enjoy some armchair sightseeing!!!


On Friday, May 23, it rained all morning, and as a result, over the lunch table, Husband stated that his plan for the afternoon was make the hour-long drive to Fort Atkinson to buy netwrap for the round baler. He kindly asked if I would like to ride along. I kindly replied, "No", glancing at the clutter on the kitchen island, knowing I should stay home and take care of that; plus, the idea of sitting two hours in the pickup didn't sound fun for some reason. Then a light bulb flickered ON in my mind, and hoping to strike a deal, I said to Husband, "I'll go along if you'd be willing to stop at the little church so I can take some pictures." He nodded his agreement to that proposal, so I threw the camera in my purse and off we went.

The "World's Smallest Church", as it is referred to on Iowa maps (although, it probably isn't really the world's smallest church), is situated on a gravel road amidst tree-covered hills and farms, west of Festina, Iowa. We approached it from the west, as we headed south out of Fort Atkinson. We were a bit lost for awhile----- the roads go every which way in that area-----and drove by several large dairy set-ups, which Husband enjoyed looking at. Finally, we reached our destination, where this sign at the front gate explains the small church building's origin.

What a lovely afternoon for taking pictures.......a clear sky and lots of sun, providing plenty of contrasting shadows.
Inside the silent church are four pews, and a serene altar surmounted by a statue of St. Anthony of Padua, about whom I know very little.

Behind the limestone church building is a tiny cemetery, adorned with flower beds.


The statue below stands in the yard behind; the pedestal is engraved with her title, "Our Lady of the Seven Dolors", as this chapel was a mission of the parish by that name in the nearby town of Festina. Her photo needed some touching up; the poor Lady appeared to have a beard on one side of her face due to dark lichen patches. So, I fiddled with the contrast and darkening buttons until she looked a tad bit better.

The dictionary definition of dolor is "sorrow", so evidently, she is "Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows". Notice she has seven little swords piercing into her heart. Very moving symbolism, in my opinion, for a mother or father to ponder, or any person who has ever loved another. I'm not Catholic, and thus not familiar with this particular personification of Mary, but presumably her sorrow is related to seeing her Son, Jesus, suffer and die on the Cross.

I love the look of old limestone buildings, and the accompanying brickwork. These stained glass windows were quite lovely, too, although I didn't take any photos of them from inside the church.

Husband and I wandered around the peaceful churchyard and gawked for maybe a half-hour, giving us a brief, but pleasant interlude in a normal workday. Down the road from is a sand or gravel pit, and dump trucks roared by several times, the drivers giving us a friendly wave. There are two farmsteads quite close, also.

Upon leaving, we headed south and soon encountered this unique bridge over the Turkey River.

Soon the road wound us back to county road W14 just north of St. Lucas, where I snapped a quick photo of the twin church steeples as we drove through town. Several years ago-----Husband had sent me to Ft. Atkinson for netwrap-----I drove up the hill to this church in St. Lucas, to see the name of it (which I now cannot recall). I knew it must be a Catholic church, because this is a heavily Catholic area, just like our home area is mainly Lutheran, because that's who settled there. I know there's lots of people of Czech-Bohemian, and German, ancestry in this area of Iowa, although a few of the names on the gravestones at the little church looked French.

That day several years ago, I had driven our old Dodge Ram van to pick up the netwrap roll in. It was in the fall, and the day was very chilly. At the implement dealership where I got the netwrap, I had rolled down my window to tell the guy thank-you for loading it, and when I pushed the button to roll the window up, it WOULDN'T work. So, the window was wide open all the way hour's drive! Luckily, I had brought along a scarf and gloves, but it was still a cold ride!



What this post is trying to say is: If you ever find yourself in northeast Iowa, be sure to consider visiting the World's Smallest Church!!


rhymeswithplague said...

Always fascinating photos! Always fascinating stories accompanying them! How do you keep doing it?
And doing it so well, I might add.

Mary Connealy said...

You do such a great job of finding beauty all around you, Jeanelle. It's inspiring to me.
Thanks for these pictures of the tiny church.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful place. I am so enjoying seeing and reading about all of these places I've never had the opportunity to visit.

Russell said...

Thank you for a GREAT post! Wow!

I only live 3 or so hours from this area -- and I have vowed to go there this summer!!

Love the pictures. You captured the feeling of this place perfectly. I also like the bridge and the twin spires -- great job!!

Judy said...

Thanks for giving us the Iowa church tour, Jeanelle...most interesting! And thanks for participating in 'Let's Take a Trip' over at My Front Porch.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

HI Jeanelle!

I came over from Judy's blog. Your post was vewry interesting. I love looking at churches and knowing the history behind them.
Your blog header photo could be one of my Ireland photos! So pretty!

Hugs, Pat

Marg said...

I jumped over from Judy's blog.
Thanks for sharing about the smallest church. Churches fascinate me. It's always interesting to know the meaning behind a church.
You've captured this well.

Unknown said...

I stopped by from Judy's blog, also. What a fun little trip in the country. That church is really neat - thanks for sharing the pictures.

sugarcreekfarm said...

My sister-in-law is from St. Lucas, and she & my brother were married in the St. Lucas church. It's a stunning building, inside and out!

Anonymous said...

Hello Jeanelle, I, also came from Judy's blog. Thank you for the interesting geographic and historic tour! As a fellow farmer wife, I understand the "go and get this" jobs that you get from the farmer, and why not enjoy the trip? Dairymary

Anonymous said...

I think that if you came to visit me I might see all the gems in my community, too. You have a real gift, Jeannelle :)

Trish said...

Hey Jeannelle....I came over from Judy's post and just loved your little tour. Your photos were wonderful and I truly felt like I was there reading your post. I'll definitely pop by again some day.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

That looks like such a pretty little church. It reminds me of a tiny chapel near where I used to work. I love places like that.

Jeannelle said...

Am checking in at the end of the day......what fun to read the comments!

Thank you.....rhymeswithplague, Beverly, Mary, Russell, Judy, Pat, Marg, Lisa, sugarcreekfarm, Dairymary, caution, trish.....Thank you for stopping by and leaving such kind words!!

Vee said...

Very much enjoyed seeing your corner of the world and your beautiful photos of the World's Smallest Church, even if it isn't. :>

Thanks for participating in Judy's event. Otherwise, I'd never have found you!

Jeannelle said...

Hi, Ruth!

Your comment must have sneaked in as I published mine.....thank you for dropping by!


And, Vee....welcome, and thanks for stopping!

Sherry said...

Looks like a place I'd sure like to visit. I had the opportunity some years ago to visit the oldest Catholic church in the country in Santa Fe NM. It was lovely, with many many stories of things that had occured there. Of course Our Lady of Guadalupe is prominent in most of the South West.

Jeannelle said...

Hi, Sherry!

Yes, the "smallest church" is a perfect destination for a Sunday afternoon drive in our part of Iowa.

Thanks for stopping by!!

a woman who is said...

What a lovely chapel. Thanks for sharing its story along with the photos.

Kathy said...

Hi Jeanelle, I read your lovely post the other day but didn't have time to comment. Your blog is very enjoyable! The church is dear. There's nothing like a ride with your husband to escape from it all, even if it is to run an errand or two. Thank you for sharing--and for stopping by to say hello at my blog! ~Kathy