The Churches of Antarctica

May 30, 2022 2 comments

In an article in Vice, Brian Merchant argues that the first structure that humans will probably build on Moon after they have completed building a base there will be a church. Indeed, Christian missionaries and clergymen have built churches in the most harshest of climes, whether they be the tropical jungles of Africa or the sun-drenched deserts of Australia. When the Ross Sea Party of Shackleton's Imperial Trans Antarctic Expedition of 1914–1917 landed in Antarctica, among the men was an Anglican priest named Arnold Spencer-Smith. Spencer-Smith set up a small chapel in a darkroom in Scott's Hut at Cape Evans. He built an altar with cross and candlesticks and an aumbry where he reserved the Blessed Sacrament. Spencer-Smith recorded in his diary that he celebrated Eucharist and also heard confession on the continent.

Since the 1950s several churches have been erected in Antarctica. Extended stays in the region can be an extremely stressful experience for the researchers who often stay separated from their families for months at a time, which is one of the reasons why churches exist in this remote continent. Today, there are eight churches in Antarctica.

Chapel of the Snows at McMurdo Station. Photo: Tsy1980/Wikimedia

The Chapel of the Snows built in 1956 is located at the United States' McMurdo Station on Ross Island. The Chapel offers various Protestant and Catholic services, but also allows for meetings of other religions, such as Latter-day Saints, Baháʼís and Buddhists and is used as well for secular groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. The original Chapel of the Snows burned down in 1978 and was rebuilt in 1989. The current chapel features custom stained glass which depicts the Antarctica Continent, the Erebus Chalice, and memorabilia from the US Navy's historic involvement in Operation Deep Freeze. The altar of the Chapel of the Snows is believed to come from St Saviour's Chapel in Lyttelton, New Zealand, where Robert Falcon Scott worshiped prior to embarking on the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition.

Chapel of Our Lady of the Snows. Photo:

The Chapel of Our Lady of the Snows is a Catholic church located in a cave in the ice near the Belgrano II base in the territory it claims as part of Argentine Antarctica. Established in 1979, it is the most southern place of worship of any religion in the world.

The Chapel of St. Francis of Assisi is located on the Esperanza Base administered by Argentina, on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Founded on February 18, 1976, it was the first Catholic chapel of the Antarctic continent.

The chapel provides spiritual support to the residents and staff of the base. This site has been part of several Antarctic milestones, including the first religious marriage, the baptism of Emilio Palma, who was the first recorded birth in Antarctica, and first communion ceremony.

Chapel of St. Mary Queen of Peace. Photo: Carlos78chile/Wikimedia

The St. Mary Queen of Peace Chapel is located in Villa Las Estrellas, in the Chilean Antarctic Territory. The chapel is basically a large container of metal, modified so that it resembles a common church. Religious ceremonies are performed by a deacon, who lives permanently in the villa.

The Chapel of Santisima Virgen de Lujan or the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin of Lujan is a steel-structured chapel located at the Argentine base Marambio on Seymour-Marambio Island in Antarctica. It is the third most southern place of worship of any religion.

St. Ivan Rilski Chapel. Photo: SnowSwan/Wikimedia

The St. Ivan Rilski Chapel is located at the Bulgarian base St. Kliment Ohridski on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands. It is the first Eastern Orthodox edifice in Antarctica and the southernmost Eastern Orthodox building of worship in the world.

St Volodymyr Chapel, dedicated to St. Vladimir the Great, is a small Ukrainian Orthodox Chapel which serves the Vernadsky Research Base on Galindez Island, Antarctica. Built in 2011, the chapel is a simple wooden construction, and despite its small size, it is richly decorated. Its contents include an icon of St. Nicholas.

Holy Trinity Church. Photo: Akulovz/Wikimedia

One of the most elaborate churches is the Holy Trinity Church on King George Island near Bellingshausen Station, a Russian research station in Antarctica. It is the southernmost Eastern Orthodox church in the world. The church is built out of wood in the traditional Russian style, and can accommodate up to 30 worshippers.


  1. Soooo, no one of Islamic belief has a base or visits Antarctica? But prayer in private is allowed as fine for Muslims.

  2. Well, if you think about it, based on statistics/ratios, the majority of visits to Antarctica were by nations whose prominent religion was Christianity, hence Christian churches. If Antarctica was staffed by a Muslim majority country then I could see where more Mosques would be built. No mosque or specific temple of worship is going to be done for less than 3-5% of the staff that services the bases there. As an army veteran we have had many different religious services in a basic chapel. Soldiers of many religions understand the logistical advantage and cost of multiple places of worship. I'm sure when the percentage of Muslims in the Antarctic become greater then it certainly would be worth it.


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