Antarctica is Earth’s southernmost continent, containing the South Pole and 5.4 million square miles of ice over a mile thick. At any time, 1000 people during the winter and up to 4000 people during the summer brave temperatures of -100 degrees Fahrenheit. Attending to their spiritual needs are eight churches that span the icy continent. The southernmost of which chapel is a Catholic church carved in pure ice.
The Chapel of Our Lady of the Snows is the southernmost place of worship in the world, 800 miles from the South Pole. It serves as a permanent Catholic church for those that reside on Belgrano II throughout the year. Although it’s located in Antarctica, it falls under the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bahía Blanca in Buenos Aires, Argentina with Guillermo José Garlatti as their Archbishop.
In 1959, the first Belgrano base was built by the Argentinians and included a chapel. However, the ice that the base was built on was unstable forcing them to relocate. Despite Antarctica being covered almost 98% by ice, they found ice-free land close to the original to construct a new base. Nearby the newly built Belgrano II base, a system of tunnels and caves was dug out of ice that eventually included the new chapel that remains today in permanent ice.
There are eight other churches on the continent, a total of four being Catholic.
Chapel of Our Lady of the Snows – Belgrano II Base, Bertrab Nunatak, built 1979
San Francisco de Asis Chapel – Esperanza Base, Hope Bay, built 1976
Chapel of Santisima Virgen de Lujan – Marambio Base, Marambio Island, built 1996
Chapel of Santa María Reina de la Paz – Villa Las Estrellas, King George Island
A fifth church exists at the most populous Antarctic base at McMurdo Station, the Chapel of the Snows. Mass is held there, but because the chapel serves a large population of multiple religions, it is not strictly Catholic.