Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Antarctica

by 1389 on April 2, 2015

in 1389 (blog admin), Orthodox Christianity, Russia

We had a brief story on this church in 2013:
The Most Remote Orthodox Church in the World.

Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Antarctica
Russian Orthodox priest Sophrony Kirilov, walks to the Holy Trinity Church, on King George Island, Antarctica. Photo: Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Telegraph (UK): The church at the South Pole

Sophrony Kirilov pulls hard on the strings of the heavy Russian bells from inside the world’s southernmost Eastern Orthodox church, calling to Mass anybody wanting to pray on this remote Antarctic island.

Hieromonk Sophrony Kirilov ringing bells
Priest Sophrony Kirilov pulls on the strings of the heavy Russian bells
(Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

The 38-year-old Russian priest is clad in a loose black robe and a vest dotted with patches of penguins and seals, marking his four years of service at the bottom of the world. Although he often misses his family and the dark winters are hard, Kirilov says there is no place he feels closer to God than in this frigid land.

“In the world there’s no tranquility and silence. But here, it’s quiet enough,” Kirilov said inside the Holy Trinity Church.

The small wooden building is perched precariously on a rocky hill above a smattering of pre-fabricated houses for scientists and service workers who call this frozen continent home, at least part of the year. Kirilov, who also works as a carpenter and mason at the Russian Bellingshausen base, says his passion for Antarctica is deeply connected to his love for the lonely building.

Russian priests here rotate in for yearlong stints, primarily to celebrate Mass [more properly called Liturgy] for the workers on the Russian base, who number between 15 and 30 at a time. The priests also welcome any of the island’s other inhabitants, about 100 in winter when temperatures can plunge to -13 Fahrenheit (-25 Celsius), and 500 in the still-chilly summer months.

The greyish clapboard church was first built in Russia from Siberian cedar planks treated to withstand the frosts and harsh wind. It was then disassembled and shipped log-by-log, “like Lego blocks,” to Antarctica, said Alejo Contreras, a Chilean Antarctic explorer who witnessed the construction and consecration in 2004. To protect it from strong winds, it is bound to the nearby rocky mountain with chains.

In the summer, tourists and the staff of the international stations brave strong winds to hike up here, leaving snowy, muddy boots at the entrance. Some pray in silence, standing or kneeling because there are no pews in the boxy interior, while others marvel at the gold-leaf iconostasis screen of icons painted with bearded saints and winged angels in vivid colors.

Holy Trinity Orthodox Church Antarctica iconostasis
The inside of the holy Trinity church (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

During Sunday service, Kirilov reads from the scriptures in Russian and sings in an angelic voice…

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