Slovakia’s ice church attracts guests nearer to heavens

A vacationer visits a Tatra Ice Temple at Hrebienok, Excessive Tatras mountains resort in japanese Slovakia on February 27, 2019. AFP / Vladimir Simicek

Hrebienok, Slovakia:  A younger nun breathes deeply as she friends up at a statue of an angel bathed in softly colored gentle streaming via a church, and as she exhales, you’ll be able to see her breath.

As a substitute of wooden or bricks and mortar, this chilly home of worship perched among the many snowy peaks of Slovakia’s Excessive Tatra Mountains has been constructed from huge crystal-clear blocks of ice.

At 1,285 metres (4,200 ft) above sea stage, the ice duplicate of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome is increased than any of Slovakia’s 4,158 church buildings, greater than half of them Roman Catholic.

Though it has not been consecrated, one other customer, Zlatica Janakova from southern Slovakia, says it looks like an actual church.

“It is so good in your soul; it supplies you with tranquillity,” she whispers.

“All of nature is inside and round this temple,” she provides, gazing on the surrounding alpine vistas.

Englishman Martin, who declined to provide his surname, describes it as a “lovely, spiritual place, so peaceable and calm”.

Since 2013, ice sculptors have flocked to the Slovak Tatra mountain hamlet of Hrebienok each winter to construct a Tatra Ice Temple, or scaled-down duplicate of a well-known church utilizing solely crystal-clear ice blocks.

This yr, it is an 11-metre (36-foot) tall model of the Sixteenth-century Vatican basilica, full with the imposing two half-circle wings of Bernini’s colonnade.

1 / 4 of 1,000,000 vacationers final yr took the brief funicular experience up the mountain to see the ice duplicate of Barcelona’s hovering and complex Sagrada Familia.

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Ice almighty

A workforce of 16 sculptors from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Wales and the US labored 12 hours a day for a month to create this yr’s ice temple.

On Sundays, the venue vibrates with the sounds of sacred music concert events.

“I am glad to see individuals crossing themselves and praying inside,” says Slovak chief sculptor Adam Bakos.

The inside boasts sculptures modelled on the works of Italian masters side-by-side with these of chamois, marmots and different wildlife native to the Excessive Tatras.

“I gave them a free hand with the ornament, so every artist added their signature model to the sculptures,” Bakos stated.

Slovak-Greek artist Achilleas Sdoukos designed and produced stained-glass decorations integrated into the temple’s icy partitions.

The constructing materials, particularly 1,880 ice blocks weighing a complete of 225 tonnes, was imported from neighbouring Poland.

“We tried completely different suppliers, from the Netherlands, England, Norway and Hungary, however Polish ice appeared to have the very best high quality, it actually seems like glass if stored chilly sufficient,” says Rastislav Kromka, technical director of the Tatra Ice Temple.


With an unusually heat winter threatening to soften particulars on their sculpture, Bakos and his workforce coated it with a geodesic dome, measuring 25 metres in diameter.

Additionally they put in refrigeration models to make sure a bone-chilling minus 10 levels Celsius (14 levels Fahrenheit) to maintain the ice stable.

“Chilly wind was blowing in our faces from the AC (air con) all day lengthy.

“It was like a chopper experience in January.

“As soon as we had been performed, I did not even wish to open the freezer at residence anymore,” he jokes.

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Greater than 15 carpenters helped sculptors with the demanding activity of stacking the ice blocks, every weighing 125 kilogrammes (275 kilos).

“It took us extra time to stack the blocks than to carve them,” Bakos stated.

“Ice can be an especially fragile materials, you have to be very light with it or particulars are likely to fall off. We used solely water to connect the items collectively,” he stated.

Cool wedding ceremony

Visiting the ice temple is free. It’s funded by the Tatra tourism organisation, the transport and development ministry and different companions.

Solely chilly air and water are used to take care of the ice church.

“It isn’t solely that guests contact the partitions of the temple, in addition they breathe out heat air and are available in sipping sizzling tea,” Kromka stated.

When winter is over, the ice construction is smashed to items, the cooling system switched off and the ice carried outdoors to soften on the bottom.

Open yearly from November till late April, the ice temple can be turning into a hotspot for vacation spot weddings.

“Right here… we’re maybe the closest to our non secular selves and our respective religions,” says Veronika Littvova, head of tourism for the Excessive Tatra area, a lot of which is pristine and guarded nationwide parkland.

She can be satisfied that ice temple weddings result in lengthy, fortunate unions.

“Due to that massive quantity of ice, I consider that marriages entered into right here will probably be preserved and final ceaselessly.”