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.

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 huge statue of Bárður Snæfellsás that is so noticeable when you drive into the small village or hamlet Arnarstapi was made by Ragnar Kjartansson one of Iceland most renowned sculptures.  The statue is his interpretation of the giant character that dominates the area around Snæfellsjökull glacier.

Bárður the half man half troll

Bárður is an extraordinary being from the time of settlement in Iceland.  His story was written in Medieval times in the fifteenth century and is part of the Icelandic Sagas.  His mother was one of the tallest and most beautiful women in her days, but his father Dumbur was a half-giant or a half-troll. Bárður was also considered extremely handsome with a large presence.  In his youth, he was fostered by Dofri, the mountain-dweller, of Dovrefjell in Norway and received an excellent education and training. Bárður married Dorfi's daughter Flaumgerður and had three tall and beautiful daughters by her. Like he, she also had a human mother. After she had passed away he married Herþrúður his second wife who was human; he had six more daughters by her.

Settled in Iceland after fleeing tyranny of Harald king in Norway

Along with his wife and daughters and some friends, Bárður emigrated to Iceland and settled at Djúpalón on the south coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Bárður's half brother Þorkell also emigrated with his family and settled at Arnarstapi. They were fleeing the tyranny of Harald, the king of Norway. His brother Þorkell had two sons, Sölvi, and Rauðfeldur. 

Driven to madness because of a prank

Following an altercation after a rather dangerous prank played on Bárður's daughters by the half-brother's sons, Bárður was provoked to a point of uncontrollable anger. An event that made him extremely depressed and totally loose his mind in the end.  Finally, he gave away all his land and all his earthly belongings and vanished into the Snæfellsnes Glacier. In the glacier, rumor has it, that he built an ice cave more in line with his troll or giant side.  There, he became known as the Guardian Spirit of Snæfell as the locals worshiped him and looked at him as their savior. For centuries, they would call upon him in times of hardship and trouble. Bárður wandered the region wrapped in a gray cowl held together by a walrus-hide rope. In his hand was a cleft staff with a long and thick gaff for mounting the glacier.

A very true story although sounds like a fantasy

Bárður's cave is still in situ, and his story is a timeless, fantastic read. It is, of course, a true story written about events that occurred in Iceland more than eleven hundred years ago, written about six hundred yers ago. Many names of many places in the area around Snæfellsjökull glacier are related to Bárður Snæfellsás and his story. 


Below is the location of Bárðarlaug on the map of Iceland

Bárður is an extraordinary being from the Icelandic Medieval Sagas.