Hallgrímskirkja – the church of Hallgrímur

On top of a hill called Skólavörðuholt, in downtown Reykjavík, is Iceland’s most recognized church, Hallgrímskirkja. Its name literally means “The Church of Hallgrímur”, referring to Hallgrímur Pétursson, a priest who lived in the 1600’s.


Hallgrímur Pétursson – a priest and a poet

Hallgrímur Pétursson wrote Passíusálmar, “the Passion Hymns,” which are quite famous in Iceland. They’re a text that consists of 50 poems written about the passion of Jesus. It took him three years to complete writing the hymns, but they weren’t published until a few years later. The immediately became popular among Icelanders and have been reprinted over 75 times. They’ve also been translated into other languages so if you’re interested you can probably find a copy in English somewhere. Hallgrímur’s Passion hymns are still read or sung during Lent and broadcast on the radio. Perhaps they’re not very popular among modern Icelanders, but back in the day they were an important part of religion in Iceland.

The Hallgrímskirkja church itself


In 1937, a man named Guðjón Samúelsson designed the church. His architecture was inspired by forms and shapes of basalt columns, which form when a certain type of lava cools down. They’re seen in various places in Icelandic nature and are quite unique and beautiful. The church was constructed in the years 1948-1986. The tower itself was built long before the rest of the church. The huge pipe organ was built by a German organ builder and wasn’t completed until 1992. It sounds quite dramatic and is a very nice feature of the church.

In front of Hallgrímskirkja you´ll see a statue of Leifur Eiríksson, who is said to be the first European to discover America, in the year 1000 A.D. The statue was a gift from the US and is a very popular photo spot, along with the church, of course!

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