Norwegian Church, Grytviken

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Norwegian Lutheran Church

Grytviken, South Georgia
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

Grytviken church.jpg
The Norwegian Lutheran Church in Grytviken, in 2004
Church of Norway (Lutheran)
Location: 54°16’48"S, 36°30’37"W
Built 1913

Norwegian Lutheran Church, also known as the Whalers Church and as Grytviken Church, stands in Grytviken on the island of South Georgia. It is perhaps the most prominent building in Grytviken, and the only church in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

The church was built in 1913 and was part of the Church of Norway, serving the many Norwegian whalers who operated from Grytviken in those days. Today those congregations have gone, but the church still hosts occasional services: the Parish of the Falkland Islands includes South Georgia, and the Vicar occasionally visits to lead worship.

The church had a cameo appearance in the 2006 animated film Happy Feet.

History and architecture

Church in c.1915

The church is in a Neo-Gothic style. It was pre-built in Norway and erected in Grytviken by whalers led by Carl Anton Larsen around 1912-1913, and consecrated on Christmas Day 1913.

The church consists of a single nave leading to a small communion table. A small library is attached to the side near the table.[1] Inside, worshippers (and now visitors) are seated on long wood benches. The floor's dark wood planks contrast with the white walls and ceiling. A second floor is accessible from a staircase at the front entrance. From the second floor, visitors can view the nave or look outside.

This Norwegian church, one of the most southern churches on earth, was consecrated on Christmas Day in 1913.

In 1922, a funeral service for Sir Ernest Shackleton was conducted in this church before his burial amongst 64 others in the church cemetery.[2] The cemetery, located approximately 750 yards to the south on the other end of Grytviken Harbour, also holds empty graves for lost whalers at sea.[3]

The church was heated by a stove at the front, though this was decommissioned during the last major refurbishment of the building on safety grounds.

There are two church bells that can be rung.


The church was led by Kristen Løken, from 1913 to 1914. Løken was born in 1885 in Lillehammer in Norway and was made Pastor of South Georgia and arrived in 1912 to take his post. He was responsible for supervising the building of the church building as well. Løken left his church in 1914 and was the only pastor for this church. Løken died in 1975.

Grytviken Cemetery

The Grytviken Cemetery, associated with the church, is located about 750 yards away to the south. It predates the church, first accepting whalers' graves before 1902. It holds 64 graves, including nine victims of a 1912 typhoid epidemic, Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922), the ashes of fellow polar explorer Frank Wild (1873-1939) which were interred in 2011, and Félix Artuso, an Argentinian submarine officer who was killed in the 1982 British recapture of South Georgia from Argentina.[4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

Restoration and maintenance

Interior, in 2011

In April, 1982, during the invasion of South Georgia by Argentinian military forces, members of a British Antarctic Survey team were invited by British marines to take shelter in the church.[9]

After years of abandonment and weathering the harsh elements of the region (roof damaged in 1994), the church has been renovated by the keepers of South Georgia Museum and volunteers in 1996 - 1998 and now serves for occasional church services and marriage ceremonies.[10]

See also

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Norwegian Church, Grytviken)


  2. Endurance (by Caroline Alexander. London: Bloomsbury. 1998)
  3. Churches in Antarctica
  4. Pat Lurcock. "Cemeteries of South Georgia: Grytviken Cemetery".  (see here for Wild Island website info including author credit])
  5. Ernest Shackleton's grave, at Wild Island website
  6. Frank Wild's grave, at Wild Island website
  7. Marine killed Argentinian in Falklands war blunder
  8. Félix Artuso's grave, at Wild Island website
  9. Freedman, Lawrence (2005). The Official History of the Falklands Campaign: The origins of the Falklands war. Routledge. pp. 13–14. ISBN 0-7146-5206-7. 
  10. "Grytviken Church (Whalers Church)". Wondermondo.