Police are attempting to determine the cause of a massive fire that completely ravaged a 124-year-old Texas church earlier this week. The Church of the Visitation in Westphalia ignited on the morning of July 29, just as members were preparing to celebrate its 125th anniversary.
Devastating footage captured by those passing by showed the extent of the flames, which ripped through the historic building and rendering it a skeleton of its former self.
It is “extremely difficult and painful to be here,” Joe Vasquez, bishop of the Austin Diocese, told KWTX Monday. “I’m very deeply affected by this and I know the people here are also heartbroken.”
Insurance officials estimate the cost of the damage at around $4 million. The church was first built all the way back in 1894 after a huge storm destroyed two previous places of worship at the same site.
Then, in December 1978, the church received the much-coveted “Texas Historical Marker,” which protected the building as a historical site. In the 1990’s the surrounding 5.5 acres of land was also recognized as a Rural Historic District and is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“This architectural beauty is now a loss,” Vasquez added, “and that’s what saddens all of us here.”
“I am saddened for the people of Westphalia who have suffered this tremendous loss,” Vásquez lamented in a Facebook post released by the Diocese of Austin. “I am grateful for all the firefighters and departments that responded to the fire. Please join me in keeping the people of this historic parish in your prayers today as they try to piece together this tragedy.”
The church, which is accepting donations for a massive rebuilding and restoration project, noted that just one item survived the relentless inferno: the tabernacle.