Consecrated in the town of Stanley in 1892, Christ Church Cathedral is one of the crown jewels of the Falkland Islands.
The church that graces the capital also graces the nation’s paper money, and although it is one of the smallest Anglican churches in the world and simple by cathedral standards, it is one of the most beautiful buildings in the Falklands. Its modest frame and steeple may not be ornate or grandiose, but it does have some treasures inside, and an unusual monument in the yard.
In 1933, an arch made of the giant jaw bones of two blue whales was erected in front of the church to observe a century of British rule. The British had claimed the territory in 1785, regardless of the French already laying claim a year earlier. Spain then bought it from the French, and evicted the Brits, only to decide they preferred what is now Argentina. In 1820, the shiny new nation of Argentina absorbed the islands, but in 1833, the British made a comeback, and the Falklands have been theirs ever since. The jaw bones were brought to Stanley from the South Shetland Islands in 1922, and used to create the arch that stands out against the church’s humble backdrop today.
Inside the church, the interior is also basic; wooden pews, stained glass, and 55 hassocks sewn and designed to represent different aspects of the Falklands by local parishioners. However, among the normal odds and ends one finds in a small town church, there’s one item of particular interest–the Shackleton Banner. Sir Ernest Shackleton was an explorer who was invited by the British to come to the Falklands and make some economic proposals, and his advice was heeded with great success. Shackleton was a member of the Order of the Garter, the most prominent order of chivalry bestowed.
Banners of the order are required to hang in St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, but Shackleton’s son bequeathed it to the Christ Church Cathedral. It’s the only banner of its kind on the entire continent of South America.