The Story Behind the Churches of the Frescoes

When first-time visitors come to Ashe County, they

usually have at least one destination in mind: visiting

the Churches of the Frescoes.

Our two churches are part of the Episcopal parish here

in Ashe County (Parish of the Holy Communion) and are

the Church of the Holy Trinity in Glendale Springs and

St. Mary's in West Jefferson.

Episcopal missionaries from Valle Crucis (in nearby

Watauga County) held services at various locations in

Ashe County as early as 1852, but no continuing presence

of the Episcopal Church existed until 1895 when 19

candidates were presented for confirmation.

Bishop Cheshire (first name unknown) then hired two

schoolteachers and began a school - and in September,

1895, the church of St. Simon the Zealot was organized.

The church's name was changed to St. Mary's in 1903.

In 1900 another Bishop visited Glendale Springs and began

building Holy Trinity church.

Miss Jenny Fields, a trained nurse and midwife, moved into

the Holy Trinity Mission House in 1913 and began to tend

the sick and deliver babies in the community. She was

followed by other women and the community of Glendale

Springs began to grow.

The beautiful paintings at the two churches began when

Ben Long, an Italian-trained artist, painted three frescoes

at St. Mary's: "Mary Great With Child" in 1974, "John the

Baptist" in 1975, and the superb "Mystery of Life" in 1977.

In the summer of 1980, he painted the fresco of "The Last

Supper" at Holy Trinity as that church building was being


Since the frescoes were completed, hundreds of thousands

of people have visited the churches. It is estimated that

60,000 pilgrims come to St. Mary's and Holy Trinity

each year.

Visit their website at

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