Orthodox Christianity has a knack for building its churches and monasteries in inhospitable places. But only a few can rival Trinity Church on King George Island. It is the southernmost Orthodox church in the world, built near Bellingshausen Station, Russia's permanent outpost in Antarctica.
In the mid 1990s, Patriarch Alexius II of Moscow gave his blessing for this audacious project. The church was constructed in Russia and transported by a supply ship to its present location. One or two monks from Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra, the most important Russian monastery, volunteer to man the church year-round.
While most buildings in Antarctica are built to hug the ground in order to reduce their exposure to the polar wind, this church proudly stands 15 meters tall. It is a wooden structure, built from Siberian pine and carved in the traditional Russian style by the master carpenters of Altay.
The priests take care of the spiritual needs of staff from nearby Russian, Chilean, Polish and Korean research stations. Their obligations include praying for souls of 64 Russians who lost their lives in various expeditions — as well as performing the very occasional, very chilly, baptism.
The church is large enough to accommodate 30 visitors, although it is rarely filled to capacity. Recently, the first wedding ever celebrated in a church in Antarctica was performed in Trinity Church. Two researchers were married: a Chilean and a Russian.
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