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Where is the “World’s Smallest Catholic Church?”

Public Domain

Zelda Caldwell - published on 04/16/18

The chapel seats about 20 people and is local tourist attraction

The sign outside St. Martin’s Catholic Church in Warrenton, Texas, is meant to catch the eye of visitors taking leisurely drives down rural Route 237, halfway between Austin and Houston: “HISTORICAL, WORLD’S SMALLEST CATHOLIC CHURCH, ST. MARTIN’S, VISITORS WELCOME.”

Without the sign, a passerby might mistake the tiny church for a shed or child’s playhouse, as Gerald McLeod notes in his article about the church in the Austin Chronicle.

“We get lots of people asking about the history of the church,” Mary Leitko with the Round Top Chamber of Commerce told the Austin Chronicle. “It’s quite a local tourist attraction.”

Mass is celebrated once a month (“for the intentions left at the altar”) in the 12-foot by 16-foot church, which has barely enough room for six rows of pews to seat 20 people. Members of the parish can attend two other, much larger churches in nearby Fayetteville.

According to a history of the church, McLeod notes that there was once a larger church by the same name where the tiny one stands. In 1915, when the population shifted to the cities, the church became less necessary, and the original St. Martin’s was dismantled in order to use the wood to build a school in Fayetteville

According to the article in the Austin Chronicle, the parishioners used leftover wood salvaged from the school project to build the little church overlooking the original St. Martin’s church cemetery.

When the school was finally demolished in 1968, many of the original church fixtures were transferred to the chapel, including the altar, the church bell, statues, and an oil painting of St. Martin.

The church is often open for visitors, and each year on All Soul’s Day the descendants of the 62 people buried in the cemetery hold a memorial service.

To attend Mass at St. Martin’s please consult the church bulletin for the dates it will be celebrated.

To read more about St. Martin’s and the history of Fayette County, Texas, read the entirety of Gerald McLeod’s article “The world’s smallest catholic church is right here in Warrenton, Texas,” (Austin Chronicle) here.

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