There is a saying "below 40 degrees south there is no law; below 50 degrees south there is no God”. However, it no longer holds true as Antarctica, the southernmost continent of the world, and the home of the South Pole now hosts several places of worship. These places serve to satisfy the religious and spiritual needs of the people who brave all odds, especially the harsh climate, to live in Antarctica and conduct scientific research for the benefit of all.
In fact, the initial exploration of the Antarctic was related to religious activities like the contributions by Jesuit geophysicists. Currently, the frozen continent hosts eight Christian chapels as the only religious buildings on the continent. A description of these eight chapels is presented below:
8. Chapel of Our Lady of the Snows
One of the few religious sites in Antarctica, the Chapel has been excavated in an ice cave in Antarctica near the Belgrano II base. It can be regarded as the most southern worship site in the world. The Catholic chapel serves as the place of worship of the believers stationed in the 1905-founded Argentinian base and scientific research station.
7. San Francisco de Asis Chapel
Established on February 18, 1976, the Chapel of St. Francis of Assisi is the first Catholic chapel in the frozen continent. The chapel is located at the Antarctic Peninsula’s northern tip. It is part of Argentina-managed Esperanza Base. Built by the Argentine Army, the Chapel is instrumental in attending to the spiritual needs of the staff and permanent residents of the Argentinian base. The chapel bears witness to several “firsts” of Antarctica like the first communion ceremony and the first religious marriage to be held on the continent. Emilio Palma, the first human baby to be born in Antarctica, was also baptized at this chapel.
6. Chapel of Santa María Reina de la Paz
The Catholic chapel is located in the Antarctic research station of the Villa Las Estrellas. The area of the research base is part of the Antarctic Territory of Chile. The chapel’s structure is in the form of a big metal container with electricity and heating facilities in the interior. The deacon living in the villa on a permanent basis performs the religious services at the chapel.
5. Chapel of Santisima Virgen de Lujan
The Roman Catholic chapel is located in Marambio which is a base of Argentina on Antarctica’s Seymour-Marambio Island. The structure of the church consists of steel and it also has a cross and a bell tower. The Argentine personnel at the station visit the church for their spiritual and religious needs. Occasionally, visitors to Antarctica also pay a visit to the church.
4. Chapel of the Snows
The Christian chapel is not affiliated with any particular denomination of the religion. It is located on the Ross Island’s McMurdo Station, a significant US base on the frozen continent. Both Catholic and Protestant services are offered at the chapel on a regular basis. The services are performed by rotational chaplains. The Catholic priests are arranged by the Diocese of Christ church. The responsibility of the supply of the Protestant chaplains is with the US. Air National Guard. Religious meetings and services involving other religions are also held at the chapel which has a capacity to accommodate about 63 worshippers. Thus, meetings of Buddhists, Bahais, and even secular groups like Alcoholics Anonymous are held at this chapel.
3. St. Ivan Rilski Chapel
The Christian chapel is located on the Livingston Island’s Bulgarian base of St. Kliment Ohridski. The chapel is Antarctica’s first Eastern Orthodox edifice. It also holds the record of being the world’s southernmost Eastern Orthodox building. The foundation stones of the chapel were laid down on December 9, 2001. The building was constructed with the help of the scientific personnel of the Bulgarian team on the continent. A Spanish ship transported the parts that were used to build the chapel and it was completed on 2003. The chapel features a bell, a cross, and icons of St. Ivan Rilski, and Jesus Christ the Bridegroom.
2. St. Volodymyr Chapel
The St. Volodymyr Chapel, named after Vladimir the Great, is a Ukrainian Orthodox chapel located in the Ukrainian Antarctic Station of Vernadsky Research Base. The church is located on the Galindez Island at the site of the research base. The church was built in 2011.
1. Trinity Church
The Russian Orthodox church is located near the Russian research station named Bellingshausen Station. The station is based on the King George Island of Antarctica. A competition was held in Russia with the aim to select designs to build a church in Antarctica as a part of the "Temple for Antarctica" project. Three architects from Barnaul won the competition. The church was built with the help of the staff of Bellingshausen Station and opened in 2004. The wooden church is made of Siberian Pine and is 15 m high. It has a capacity to hold nearly 30 worshippers.