The smallest Church in the world
The Tiny Church
Background of this tiny church
I know many will argue that if it was the smallest church in the world then it should be in the Guinness book of records, and that I should not call it a church but a chapel, but that’s what the local calls it.
Perhaps because when it was built, the builders had the intention of making it a church not a chapel. In-fact, it by all means referred to as a church and hence, I will not correct the local people by calling it otherwise. But a church or a chapel, its small as to size but big as to its history.
If you agree on my definition, then this is probably is the world’s smallest church. I did not get a chance to measure it, but I took some pictures and when you view them please tell me am wrong and you have seem a much smaller church than this one.
This tiny church is located along the old Nairobi, Mai Mahiu, Nakuru road on exciting edges of the Lari escarpments; which forms one of the walls of East Branch of the Great Rift Valley. I do not know whether it’s in Nakuru County or Kiambu County as this is where the unmarked border of the two counties is and I would not like to be the one who started a boundary row between these 2 Kenyan peaceful Counties.
Located on a treacherous edge of the Great Rift Valley in Kenya; you will find the church while driving down to the valley from the highlands of Kiambu; Limuru area, to the Nakuru’s County Rift Valley’s floor. Besides, this tiny church, you will also have an opportunity to see the active volcano of the great valley, namely Suswa, the mystic Longonot mountain and Lake Naivasha; the fresh water lake with no outlet river. Far afield as you drive down this winding buy exciting road are the Eburu Heights; which are part of the evergreen Mau Summit; one of the five Kenya’s water towers.
The church has a rich history as the caretaker narrates the heroic story Italians who built the church and this will clearly leave you mesmerized by how much hope this small church held in heyday when the 2ndWorld War Italian POWs prayed for divine intervention. It is a Catholic as to the denomination and a signage by the entrance confirms this important fact. A hill was cut to put it up, leaving this tiny hilly interruption surrounded by a natural forest. In its original form and construction it was rhyming with the nature but of late some renovation have been taking place and look like they have disturbed this tiny church connection with nature.
Second World War Italian Soldiers in East Africa
What really moves me is that a war that was started by Mussolini in Italy could have come to a quite place like Kenya and leave behind a monument of such magnificent.
Kenya was a British Colony, its neighbor in the north; Ethiopia escaped the colonial yoke after Emperor Menelik 2 thwarted the Italian effort to have Ethiopia as a colony, but that was far back then, before this small church was built as it was in 1892 in the battle of Odawa, Ethiopian rejected colonial powers and remained the only country in Africa that was not colonized.
Italians did not take it lightly and with the Second World War they came and attempted to retake the country, Emperor Haile Selasie; then the leader of Ethiopia fled to Britain where he continued to ask the world to came to the aid of his people.
British and local people in Kenya, Uganda, Egypt and Sudan heeded to the soft spoken Emperors voice and attacked the Italians in Ethiopia and thus creating another World War 2 theater in East Africa, far from the North Africa’s Romel's Adventure and actions in the Pacific.
It is these small theaters of the war that makes truly believe it was a world war. Many Italian were killed and many captured and taken to Kenya in POW camps, they were also subjected to forced labour further making their survival almost impossible, many lost their lives and that is story for another day.
Some of the forced labour that the Italian POWs were subjected to was to cut off part of the edge of the Great Rift Valley to build a road from Nairobi; Kenya’s capital city to Nakuru; a major agricultural town located at the bottom of Rift Valley. The road has been re-carpeted several times losing the hard work of the 1940 Italians.
This Church is true manifestation of the the impact of war to the people of the world, no matter how far yopu are, when wars are fought they will surely come top your doorstep.
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How to get to the Smallest Church in the world
The journey to smallest church in the world is breathtaking as one view the mist Rift Valley down below while catching a glimpse of the rock hyrax, baboons and chimpanzee once in a while.
You have to negotiate some crazy corners while trucks hoots behind urging you to speed and you hope that they will not lose their brakes and come bumping into your car, pushing you to the abyss below.
Driving down this great road is scaring and breathtaking but worth every bit of it. The Church is in a dangerous location as it sits on a corner along the road and you come abruptly to it, with no warning at all. If you were speeding, which I think would be crazy in this narrow and winding road, you would probably stop further down and will need walk back to get to its compound.
It was built on a carved escarpment just like the road. The digging of the escarpment was done by Italian Prisoners of war so when you go down this road remember the poor souls who had been captured by the British soldiers in Ethiopia and made to dig off the greatest valley in the world, to make this road.
The road leading to the church was originally built by the Italian Prisoners of war who were captured by the British soldiers in the Ethiopian war during the Second World War.
The Italian POW built this small church Catholic Church to seek solace with the Lord during that trying time. The Church was built in 1942. From the church compound you can see trailers and trucks negotiate some corners and wonder how long before one loses control and come crashing the small church, killing the history it holds. But you give yourself some solace as these trucks have been negotiating these corners since 1942 and the church has always been safe, well there have been some incidences but the church survives.
In-fact the church main enemies are the looters who come once in a while and steal something precious, but with a fence that was built to keep away the thieves plus constant supervision and vigilance by some local volunteers this has been put into check.
In this small church there is no service, besides the church is too small as it can only hold less than 10 people and I mean 10 people who will be squeezing and fighting for air to breathe; remember I said it could be the smallest church in the world.
For the maintenance, a few local people get some handouts from the visitors and they keep it going. They take you through the churches story and if you are touched you give something and life goes on for this small church in the world.
I was such a visitor, though I had always seen the church since I was young travelling the road to my rural area with my parents, that was like 3 decades ago and I had always promised myself I would go and take pictures and tell the world about this tiny mysterious church and what such an opportunity came, I drove down to get some pictures and write the story.
The road was left for trucks and trailers sometimes back after another road which deviated from this small church was built and unless you want some adventures not many personal cars use the road. However it’s mandatory the trucks and trailers use the road.
My concluding remarks
It may not be the smallest church in the world but this is a tiny church that has so much history. The best way to details the size is by showing more pictures which you will find below.
But if you would like to visit and see for yourself it would be a great adventure