‘The people here are heartbroken’: Texas church that was set to celebrate its 125th anniversary is DESTROYED in fast-moving blaze
- Fire engulfed Church of the Visitation in Westphalia, Texas on Monday
- Catholic house of worship was said to have served 500 parishioners
- Wooden structure completely destroyed by blaze, which was visible for miles
- The tabernacle and a statue of the Virgin Mary were saved by locals
Heartbroken parishioners sifted through the ashes of a 125-year-old church that was burned to the ground by a rapidly spreading fire in central Texas on Monday.
The Church of the Visitation in Westphalia, which counted some 500 members and was believed to be the largest wooden structure west of the Mississippi River, was destroyed by the blaze on Monday morning.
Locals were able to save the tabernacle, but virtually everything else was lost, KWTX-TV reported.
A statue of the Virgin Mary with rosary also survived the blaze, KXXV-TV reported.
The Church of the Visitation in Westphalia, Texas goes up in flames on Monday morning
Smoke from the fire was reportedly visible for miles, according to witnesses
The wooden structure was completely destroyed in the fast-moving blaze (as seen in the image above)
‘(It’s) extremely difficult and painful to be here,’ said Joe Vasquez, bishop of the Austin Diocese.
‘I’m very deeply affected by this and I know the people here are also heartbroken,’ he said.
Vasquez said the historic church held religious as well as symbolic significance.
‘This architectural beauty is now a loss and that’s what saddens all of us here,’ he said.
The fire took place as church members were busy planning events to mark the 125th anniversary of its founding.
Firefighters are seen dousing the flames after the church was burned to the ground on Monday
One of the church bells is seen amongst the debris left behind by the fire on Monday
Westphalia resident Marvin Meyer looks over the remains of the church on Monday
The church serviced some 500 parishioners, according to the Austin Diocese
Firefighters responded to the scene early Monday morning, but it was too late.
The sanctuary was engulfed by flames, and smoke could be seen from miles away.
Investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s Office began collecting evidence from the scene. So far, there is no word on what caused the fire.
Westphalia, a town located about 35 miles south of Waco, was settled by German and Catholic migrants beginning in the late 19th century.
Construction on the church first began in 1894. The building had a symmetrical facade that featured two twin 80-foot bell towers topped by copper-clad domes and Maltese crosses.
Construction on the church first began in 1894. The building had a symmetrical facade that featured two twin 80-foot bell towers topped by copper-clad domes and Maltese crosses
The building also had 20 Gothic stained glass windows and fish-scale shingles. The largest window, located behind the main altar, depicted the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin
The building also had 20 Gothic stained glass windows and fish-scale shingles.
The largest window, located behind the main altar, depicted the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin.
The church was designed to remind the locals of the architecture that was popular in the Westphalia region of Germany.
In recent decades, both the state and federal governments recognized the church as a historic landmark.
In Christian tradition, the Visitation is St. Mary’s visit to St. Elizabeth while the former was pregnant with Jesus and the latter was due to give birth to John the Baptist.
The event is described in the Gospel of Luke, one of the four canonical Gospels of the New Testament.