Cover photo full
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe tallest church in Iceland, Hallgrímskirkja (Hallgrim's Church) is a Lutheran parish church in Reykjavik that rises to 244 feet, making it Iceland’s sixth tallest structure. It is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman, Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614-74), who wrote Passíusálmar (Passion Hymns ) and other important Lutheran work during the Age of Orthodoxy.
HistoryAlthough born in Iceland, Pétursson ran away to Copenhagen as a boy to become a blacksmith’s apprentice. Under the influence of Bishop Brynjólfur Sveinsson, he enrolled in the Danish Vor Frue Skole (‘Our Lady’s School’), and received a Latin humanist education. One of his major responsibilities as a young man was re-Christening a group of Icelanders who had been held captive for nine years by Algerian pirates. On return to Iceland, he worked as a laborer and fisherman before becoming a parson at Saurbær (1651–69). After contracting leprosy, he wrote his Passíusálmar, merging his own suffering with that of Jesus Christ and they went on to gain widespread popularity, inspiring the masses and becoming one of the best religious poets in the world. The Hallgrímskirkja was built in his honor and for his contribution to Icelandic devotional repertoire.
Designed in modern Nordic design, the church was commissioned in 1937 by state architect, Guðjón Samúelsson , who was also responsible for the design of Reykjavik's Landakotskirkja and the Akureyrarkirkju in Akureyri. Its style is similar to the expressionist architecture of Grundtvig’s Church of Copenhagen in Denmark that was completed in 1940.
The church was built over 38 years between 1945 and 1986, with the concrete design said to resemble Iceland’s basalt lava flows. The crypt was the first to be consecrated in 1948, the steeple and wings finished in 1974, and the nave consecrated in 1986.
In 2008, the main tower underwent significant restoration works that were completed late 2009.
Visiting the ChurchThe church is situated in the center of Reykjavik and is open daily between 9 AM and 5 PM. Visitors are welcome to enter the church whose interior is significantly more traditional, although still retaining aspects of Icelandic geology with modern Gothic lines reminiscent of ice formations and the smooth vault like an ice cave. In line with Lutheran tradition, there is little decoration except for a huge 5,275 pipe that was built in Germany by Johannes Klais of Bonn. With four manuals and pedal, 102 ranks and 72 stops, it weighs in at 25 tons and stretches 49 feet tall. It features on recordings by Christopher Herrick on his Organ Fireworks VII CD and Mattias Wager’s Live at Vatnajökull CD. From mid-June to mid-August, you can hear the organ played three times per week at lunchtime and evening concerts.
The bell tower can be accessed via an elevator and provides spectacular views of the city below and the mountains beyond. There are three bells in the tower representing Hallgrímur, his wife, and their daughter who died quite young.
Outside the church is a statue of the famous Icelandic/Norwegian explorer, Leif Erikson (970-1020), who was thought to be the first European to have landed in the United States. It is believed that Erikson landed on the shores of the New World 500 years before Christopher Columbus in 1,000 AD. The sculpture by Alexander Stirling Calder was offered as a gift from the United States during the 1930 Alþingi Millennial Festival that marked the Icelandic parliament’s 1000th anniversary at Þingvellir in 930 AD.
Do you see any omissions, errors or want to add information to this page? Sign up.
Author: Pip23. Last updated: Feb 20, 2015