Today we are going to a very attractive place to visit a very impressive building. In front of you is not a shepherd’s hut, a house overgrown in the grass, or a tool shed. Although … in its long history, this house was all that. Still, in front of you is the oldest Christian church in the whole of Iceland. Built at the end of the 17th century, it is specific in many ways.
This church has no decorations. It is also one of the five remaining turf churches on the island. Shortly after Hólar bishop, Gísli Þorláksson constructed it, this church was deconsecrated and in the following years was used as a tool shed and shepherd’s hut. It was restored in 1950 and a few years after that, the bishop of Iceland restored her status as a holy place.
There are more than 350 churches across Iceland. Considering that the population of Iceland is 330.000 people, that’s a lot. But, the country is considered the sixth-most atheistic nation globally. In 2015 Iceland was voted the most godless country in Europe given that hardly any young people believe in God.
I got the idea to visit this beautiful church by reading about Iceland and planning a route to tour this amazing country. The story of how I plan my trips and how I managed to cover 2800 kilometers across Iceland in a single week and visit more than 40 locations will wait for some next post. Let’s just say they didn’t believe me. Since that trip, my dear spouse knows, with absolute certainty, that she lives with a complete lunatic. And I’ve been asked to leave my crazy plans for solo hikes in the future. But, no matter what she claims, it was epic!
Icelandic turf houses were the product of a difficult climate, offering superior insulation compared to buildings solely made of wood or stone, and the relative difficulty in obtaining other construction materials in sufficient quantities. A turf house is a house build with earth, with a roof that consists of turf and grass. The top layer of the earth is used, which is soil that is bound together by grass and plant roots. Icelanders used to live in turf houses from the age of settlement till mid-20th century.
In any case, as you can see on the map, the church is located in a very sparsely populated and even less visited peninsula in northern Iceland, Skagarfjörður. It’s almost hidden under the grass, so I nearly missed it. It looks, like everything else in Iceland, completely out of the ordinary and established norms. It looks simply odd. It seems totally different from everything you would expect from a church. In short – it is completely Divine.
This church is out of the usual tourist routes. Most Iceland visitors will bypass it due to the simple fact that it is far away and you need significant time to get there. Unjustly forgotten, if you ask me. This turf church is one of the most beautiful, most peaceful and most memorable places I have visited in the whole country. It is so calm and out of the ordinary that you must stop and think about it. Like most Icelanders, I am not a goodly man. I believe in tradition and respect it. But I really like churches, and this one is so special and so close to nature, that you must like it. If you can, plan to spend some time near her and see what I’m talking about.
Iceland was one of the last places on earth to be settled by humans, but one of the world’s oldest democracies; established in 930. Even though the majority of Icelanders are godless, most Icelanders believe in eves. And do not blame alcohol for that, beer was illegal until 1989.