Cheré Dastugue Coen
The Smallest Church in the South?
Who has the bragging rights to the smallest church in America? You bet the contestants are in the South.
First up is the 10-foot by 20-foot Christ Chapel “deeded to Jesus Christ” in Memory Park, South Newport, Georgia. It was built in 1949 by Agnes Harper and includes a bell tower, six chairs on either side of the aisle, stained glass windows and places to sit outside if you want to make it a picnic. The bell tower added in 1998 is also a nice touch.
The Chapel of the Madonna outside White Castle, Louisiana, measures 9 feet by 9 feet, thus nabbing it the title the “Smallest Church in the World” by Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Italian farmer and Louisiana resident Anthony Gullo built this chapel along the Mississippi River near Baton Rouge in 1902 after he prayed to the Virgin Mary for healing. The original church was two feet smaller, at 7-feet by 7-feet, but the current structure was enlarged during a levee reconstruction. Mass is held here every Aug. 15, the Day of the Assumption.
Apparently, Ripley’s is a two-timer. At Thomas More College the small stone Monte Casino Chapel measures 8 feet high and was called the “Smallest Church in the World” by Ripley’s in 1922. It was built in 1878 by Benedictine Father Otto Kopf and Brother Albert Soltis, a German-born mason, as a quiet retreat at the Monte Casino Monastery in the hills of South Covington, Kentucky.
One mile east of Warrenton, Texas, on Highway 237 lies the oldest Catholic Church in Fayette County. It’s also the smallest chapel in Texas — how’s that for a Texas brag? Circa-1915 St. Martin’s Church is only 12 feet by 16 feet, which inspired someone to proclaim it the “World’s Smallest Active Catholic Church” (we’re not sure who). Masses for the intentions left on the altar are celebrated monthly and there’s a minister and staff.
Pause, pray and worship at the Traveler’s Chapel in Conway/Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and sign the book before you leave. Built in 1972, this tiny church seats 12 and measures 12 feet by 24 feet. You can even get married there! If you want a look-see inside, check out this YouTube video of “Ray writing a prayer.”
There are other small churches in America. Want to see more. Visit Roadside America for a full list.