#church

In most regions in Iceland, you will find places and farms that played a significant role from times of settlement up until the 20th century. Areas that were homes of chieftains and housed regional assemblies. Place of worship at pagan times, a great farm with good soil to harvest, a place that had a church, a place that had easy access from all directions, a place with various natural perquisites, a learning center in medieval times and  a home of a monastery when Catholicism was the official religion in Iceland.  And sometimes, as was the case of Þingeyrar, all the above.  For the north-west region, Þingeyrar was always one of the most important places in the region. It is a place of immense historical importance.  So when you visit Þingeyrar, you are getting in touch with Icelandic history from the times of settlement. And when you are standing on the small hill, you will have a good idea why Þingeyrar was important.

The beautiful church ÞIngeyrarkirkja

The beautiful church ÞIngeyrarkirkja

Learning center

In medieval times in Iceland, interest in education and learning was quite prevalent. Places that wrote stories gathered information and taught religion, science, history and other classics at that time, following contemporary knowledge.  In those learning centers, Icelanders created their most valuable historical assets, the Sagas.  In Þingeyrar some of the most crucial Sagas were written as ÞIngeyri was one of the most creative and active learning centers.  The monastery was, of course, crucial and was the first one that was established in Iceland after the conversion from heathenism to Christianity in the year 1000.  From its founding in 1133, the monastery was one of the most critical institutions in Iceland and a small hamlet placed on the hill until its abolition in 1554, around the time Iceland converted to Lutheranism.

Þingeyrarkirkja church in Húnavatnssýsla

The beautiful church ÞIngeyrarkirkja

The beautiful stone church at Þingeyrar

Quite noticeable from the main road Nr. 1 the Ring Road in Iceland is the beautiful stone church that now stands on the hill at Þingeyrar.  Not only is the church noticeable but also one of the more interesting buildings in Iceland. It took 14 years to build and was consecrated in 1878.  The church is also one of the first stone buildings in Iceland and took a considerable effort to bring the stones to the hill and also to finance the project in the middle of the 19th century.  The church is exceptionally well maintained on the outside as well as the surrounding area.  On the inside, it is almost sensational with its many historical artifacts and items that are traced back to the monastery. A beautiful small service center is by the church dedicated to the history of Vatnsdalur and the surrounding area. Of course about the Saga Vatnsdælasaga that was written probably in the 12th century at Þingeyrar.

Finding your way to Þingeyrar

For anyone traveling on the Ring Road in the north-west region, a visit to Þingeyrar and the church Þingeyrarkirkja is worth it.  It is also quite simple.  After you drive through the small town of Blönduós, you drive about 18 kilometers or about 11 miles.  There you take a turn left, or north, on the road Nr. 721 Þingeyrarvegur. 

Þingeyrarkirkja in Húnavatnssýsla

Skálholt, the former Episcopal see, and farm, in the Southern Region in Iceland is one of the most important historical places in the country.  For ages, the Iceland was a rural agricultural society with almost no form of a significant urban area.  The Church was a powerful institution both socially and economically in addition to its main spiritual and religious role. Accordingly, Skálholt became a center and played the role of a capital of Iceland for centuries.

Skálholt, the former Episcopal see, and farm, in the Southern Region in Iceland

Skólavörðurholt in the Reykjavík City Center district is a hill that for decades and even centuries was the highest point in the town of Reykjavík.

Hallgrímskirkja church

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.

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Below is the location of Hólar í Hjaltadal on the map of Iceland

After the Icelanders had converted to Christianity, Hólar became the Episcopal see in the north with Skálholt serving the same function in the south.

 

The church at Hvalsnes on the western part of the Reykjanes Peninsula is somewhat revered by the Christian Icelanders. The longest serving priest in the Hvalsnes parish was Hallgrímur Pétursson, a much-loved hymn writer whose life has become a legend. Even though he served the parish long before the present church was built, the Icelanders tend to look on the church site as a kind of a holy place.

This humble, still impressive church was built from carved basaltic stones from the local area during 1886 and 1887. It was consecrated on Christmas Day 1887. The proprietor of the Hvalsnes estate that was also the project manager financed the building. The wood for the interior was driftwood, collected from the shores nearby.

One of the most precious artefacts in the church is a gravestone with the name of Steinunn Hallgrímsdóttir, who died at the age of four in 1649. Her father, the Reverend Hallgrímur Pétursson, made it. The gravestone was lost for ages but was discovered in 1964. It had been used as part of a walkway leading to the church.

Earlier, during the Catholic era in Iceland the Hvalsnes churches were dedicated to the Holy Mother, St. King Olaf, St. Catharine and all other saints.

 

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Below is the location of Hvalsneskirkja on the map of Iceland

 The longest serving priest in the Hvalsnes parish was Hallgrímur Pétursson, a much-loved hymn writer