Christian Unique Sites Tours
These tours involve going to two chapels that are largely unknown to the general public, a theological library, a Bible museum with a stop for lunch. Lunch is either on the Houston Baptist University (HBU) campus at the more informal and louder university’s cafeteria or at an excellent Italian restaurant with a tranquil ambiance. You can choose. Bring lunch money.
We offer two variations of the Christian Unique Sites Tours:
- Tour A - This shorter tour includes the two chapels, the theological library, and a stop for lunch. This tour does not include the Dunham Bible Museum and allows more time at the library than Tour B. Tour A is 6 hours long. It starts at 9:00 AM and ends at 3:00 PM.
- Tour B - This longer tour includes the two chapels, the theological library, the Dunham Bible Museum, and a stop for lunch. This tour is 7 hour long. It starts at 9:00 AM and ends at 4:00 PM.
Notes About the Sites You Will Visit
The chapel at the Villa de Matel Convent was built in 1928. The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Houston operate the convent. Three nuns found The Sisters of Charity order in Galveston, in 1866. Within months, the worst yellow fever epidemic in Galveston’s long history of diseases hit. One sister died; one became sick, recovered, and returned to France; one sister, Sister Mary Joseph Roussin, stayed and made the order a success. It spread to Houston in 1894. Its ministries have had active missions in a variety of Latin American countries, Kenya, and Romania as well as nuns who are active in Houston, Texas, and beyond.
On December 8, 1927, the Conventual Church of the Immaculate Conception was finished. It opened in 1928 and the Villa de Matel became the Motherhead, or official residence, moving from Galveston to Houston the same year. It is not open to the general public. It is for the nuns. It is only used a few times a year, primarily for major holidays and funerals. The architect was Maurice J. Sullivan (1884 – 1961). Sullivan was the architect of the city of Houston from 1912 to 1919, but his greatest fame came from his church designs across Texas. The style is the Lombard Romanesque. It looks like a structure from the Medieval or Renaissance era. It is 160 feet long, 58 feet wide and has a 50 high foot ceiling. You will be impressed.
The Dunham Bible Museum is on the Houston Baptist University (HBU) campus. It opened in 1997. It has a collection of old and rare bibles from the 1500s in Europe and first editions of bibles from the 1600s in the American colonies, as well as reproductions. It has a replica of a Gutenberg Bible printing press and other religious exhibits and collections.
The Lanier Theological Library is so much more than just a library. Attorney Mark Lanier has personally funded this impressive library, the chapel, and the collection. It opened in 2011. It is a 17,000 square foot research library with an excellent collection of the books and writings of C. S. Lewis. It also has a stone chapel that was modeled after a now destroyed Byzantine church that was laid out in a cruciform in Tomarza, Turkey. The library has over 80,000 volumes, including an original 1611 King James Version (KLV) Bible and facsimiles of the Isaiah scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
- The tours begin at the Houston Visitors Center in downtown. Please click here to be connected to the address and parking information.
- All tours are scheduled by appointment so call or write in advance. These tours normally need to be scheduled at least two weeks in advance to arrange a private opening of the Villa de Matel chapel.
- This tour is available Monday through Friday.
- The Villa de Matel is closed on Sunday and Saturday.
- The Dunham Bible Museum is closed on Sunday and on Saturday before a Monday holiday.
- The Lanier Theological Library is closed on Sunday