Hólar í Hjaltadal usually referred to as simply "Hólar", a site of historical buildings and archeological excavation, played a significant role in Iceland's history from the twelfth century until the eighteenth. After the Icelanders had converted to Christianity, Hólar became the Episcopal see in the north with Skálholt serving the same function in the south. Still, Hólar didn't become a diocese until 1106.
During the next seven centuries, it was one of Iceland's two main cultural and educational centers. There was a monastery on the premises, where monks produce manuscripts and transcripts. The first printing press in Iceland was set up in Hólar in 1530.
Such a center would always be highly political in a medieval society, which became quite apparent in 1550. Jón Arason was the last presiding bishop at Hólar. He defended his church and his faith through a fierce conflict. The conflict ended when Arason was arrested and transported to Skálholt. There he was beheaded along with his two sons who both were Catholic priests.
Ever since Arason's time there has been a church in Hólar. In 1759-63, the present Baroque style church was built in Hólar. It is the second-oldest building in Iceland. The main altarpiece, with its ornate carvings, originated in Germany around 1500 and was, ironically, donated to the church by Arason.
In 1882, an Agricultural College was founded at Hólar. It was rename Hólar University College in 2003. Hólar is also home to the Center for the History of the Icelandic horse.