BlogApril 2021Off the Beaten Path: Chapel in the Dunes

Off the Beaten Path: Chapel in the Dunes

Just Miles From Cinnamon Shore, Visit A Tiny House Of Worship With Glorious Abstract Art Inside!


Built to Beckon 

The Port Aransas Museum offers free tours on the first and third Saturdays of the month. Just meet at the museum on Alistair St. at 9:15 a.m. for an 8-minute video that introduces the history of this hidden gem, built in 1937-38 by Aline B. Carter of San Antonio. You also can schedule a tour on other Saturdays -- when donations to the museum operations are especially appreciated and encouraged.

The structure, topped with a skeletal bell tower and cross, hasa stark simplicity, but it's the interior frescos that art lovers will find fascinating. They crowd every spare inch of this interior space of a chapel that has stood for eight decades.

To schedule a tour on the "off" Saturdays, call (361) 749-3800. Museum Director Cliff Strain or another docent will share all he knows about this special place in the heart of Port Aransas. Visit for more.


The 'White Angel'

Aline Carter--known as "White Angel" for the flowing white gowns worn around the town--hoped to attract island children to the services there and introduce them to her faith, according to Strain at the Port Aransas Museum. Now the iconic building draws those inspired by its charming silhouette set against the morning sunrises and backed by blue skies. And it offers moments of quiet worship and reflection.

The Port Aransas Explorer also reports that Carter, a poet, used the retreat as a place for reflection. In fact, she served as Texas Poet Laureate from 1947-49. She was truly a Renaissance woman, as this depiction from a book at Texas poet laureates describes her. "[She is] an artist, an astronomy educator, and a harpist, having studied under an outstanding teacher of the Boston Conservatory of Music, harpist Harriet A. Shaw.  She has in her home an organ and an observatory, complete with telescope, just for her pleasure and for that of the public." The passage goes on to desribes her teaching astronomy to San Antonio's children at the Witte Museum and mentions her Dune Chapel in Port A, too. "Aline may also be found teaching students in her small chapel in Port Aransas, known as “Chapel on the Dunes” or reflecting on the wonders of nature in her “Sunrise Cliff” overlook on the Guadalupe River." 

Photo: Courtesy Port Aransas Museum  Passage quotes adapted from Poets Laureate of Texas 1932-1966 (1966) by Margaret Royalty Edwards as shared on


Interior Paintings Commissioned

A Corpus Christi-area artist did the interior frescos that delight guests who peer up at the ceilings, trying to decipher the different Bible stories depicted. There's the Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve near the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. There's Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac before his hand is stopped and a ram provided instead.


Rear of the Church

Like the back wall of the Sistene Chapel in Rome, the rear fresco shows a powerful image of Christ's Return at the second coming -- or is it showing Judgement Day? It's hard to know for sure, but the images get you thinking the majesty of the Lord.


Look at the Details

Angels faces peer at visitors backed by abstract lines. Elsewhere, palmetto patterns hint at the beachside setting.


Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil

This is almost as tempting and beautiful to look at as the original tree in the Garden of Eden. This evocative depiction of tree instrumental in the the Fall of Man appears near paintings of Adam and Eve.


Almost Like Water Colors...

The delicate, abstract features of the figures in the frescos almost appear transparent like water colors. Just look at this arresting face that emerges as you study one of the scenes. The different scenes merit return visits and invite first-timers to linger longer than they anticipated. 

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Pews and Paintings

Upon entry, the traditional wood pews with beach blue cushions line the aisle that points to the traditional altar. Cherub faces and dramatic lines in gold point to it, inviting worship and contemplation. In the past, a sculpture stood there, but was removed after the consensus was that the piece distracted from the overall artistic effect, according to Cliff Strain of the Port Aransas Museum.

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Stay at Cinnamon Shore and Plan To Visit the Chapel in the Dune!

See what's available at Cinnamon Shore and remember to check out this hidden gem on the free tours via the Port Aransas History Museum:



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