Most Photographed Church in Texas”
Sweden Evangelical Lutheran ChurchIf
you haven’t seen it in person, you should.
Services are every Sunday at 10:30
Photo by by J. Griffis Smith, courtesy TXDoT|
original church was organized in 1875 and the first building was constructed alongside
the Lutheran Cemetery on the corner of New Sweden Church Road and FM 973. Coming
from Austin, you will turn right at that intersection and follow New Sweden Church
Road to the church.|
The church was said to have appeared in the 1971 movie
The Great Waldo Pepper (other scenes were shot in Martindale
and Seguin). But a rented
copy of the movie showed not a trace. It may have been “left on the cutting-room
floor.” A crime if true.
You’ll have another chance to see the building
on film with the (much anticipated) release of The Tree of Life, a movie
written and directed by Terrence Malick, starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.
The Tree of Life was filmed in several other central Texas locations including
a brief scene in La Grange, but the
lion’s share of the movie was filmed in the delightful town of Smithville,
Texas, a town where cast and crew lived for six months back in 2008.
were escorting visiting Florida restoration carpenter Max Zurko around Austin
when we remembered the craftsmanship of the New Sweden church and headed east,
racing the setting sun. Zurko, a retired professor was on a busman’s holiday visiting
notable Texas wooden structures. We arrived at dusk, but were fortunate enough
to find Pastor Hans Lillejord walking between the parsonage and church just as
we pulled up.
Pastor Lillejord graciously offered to open the church for
us and escorted us inside. He gave us a brief history and told us about Tree
of Life and how the church was standing-in for a “Midwestern location.”
It was also Pastor Lillejord that told us that it was the “most photographed church
in Texas,” a claim we don’t doubt for a New Sweden minute. When we commented that
the recent paint on the building was an improvement over our last visit, we also
learned just how expensive church upkeep can be. (You don’t want to know.)
The photos on this page credited to TxDoT were originally published in Texas Highways
Magazine. The one with the truck was a full page back cover image. Texas Escapes
photographer Barclay Gibson
has visited the church at least thrice (that we know of) on his “Steeplechase”
Photo by Randy Green, courtesy TXDoT|
Sweden Lutheran Church organ keyboard|
Photo courtesy Justin
Austin: Take highway 290 East for
until you come to FM-973. Turn left (watching traffic) and drive 4 and 8/10ths
to New Sweden Church Road. Here you’ll see the cemetery and a historical marker.
(This was the site of the first church.) Turn right and follow the road for the
remaining 2 miles. Just keep the steeple in sight. At 104 feet tall, it’s easy
From Elgin: Take
highway 290 W and turn right onto FM1100. After 5 miles, turn left onto Manda
Road and drive for about a mile until you see Manda Carlson Road. Turn right and
drive 6 /10ths of a mile to New Sweden Church Road and drive the remaining mile
and one tenth. Don’t forget to take a photo.