The Catholic Church is home to some of humankind’s utmost achievements in architecture. Throughout the past two millennia, the Church has produced many of the world’s greats: The Sistine Chapel, Saint Peter’s Basilica, and the Notre-Dame Cathedral to name just a few of the many. From Romanesque Abbeys, to Gothic Cathedrals or Renaissance Basilicas, architectural styles have constantly evolved throughout the ages. While some think the most impressive of churches are large in stature, impressive churches can come in all sizes. One such example is the Saint Martin Church of Warrenton, Texas, the smallest active Catholic church in the world.
Saint Martin Catholic Church and Cemetery is the world’s small active Catholic church in the world, located in Warrenton of Fayette County, Texas. Built on a small plot with a field of about sixty headstones, the church is no larger than a small shed with a steeple on top, only 14 by 18 feet in size. Inside, the church has six rows of twelve wooden pews to seat just twenty people. The inside is decorated with crucifixes, statues of Jesus and Mary, and an original painting of Saint Martin, the patron saint of soldiers.
In 1888, the original Saint Martin Church and Cemetery was constructed as a mission of Saint John the Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Texas. Prior to its construction, a large number of Catholic families were living in Warrenton without a church to attend. A priest from Fayettesville organized regular home visits to celebrate mass with parishioners privately. For two years this continued until a family sold an acre of land to the Bishop, who then ordered the construction of a church in Warrenton.
For 27 years, the church was used for weddings, funerals, and to celebrate Mass. However, in 1915, a majority of the Catholics had passed or moved away and it was rarely used. When the people of Fayettesville needed a new school, the Bishop gave permission to demolish the Saint Martin Church and use its lumber to help construct the school. With leftover lumber, parishioners constructed the current day Saint Martin Church.
In 1968, the school built in Fayettesville was demolished due to declining enrollment. When it was demolished, statues, the altar, and the bell were returned to the church along with the original painting of Saint Martin.
Today, the descendants of the sixty-two people buried in the cemetery work together to maintain the church and its grounds. Every year, a memorial service is held on All Soul’s Day and the rest of the year it is open to visitors with a registration book and donation box inside.