I used to joke that there are more churches in Iceland than people. This is almost true outside of Reykjavik. Nearly every farm, village, or hamlet has a church. Over the last millennium, Christianity has dominated the religious landscape in Iceland. Here are a few churches that I thought you might like seeing.
One of the few remaining black churches in Iceland is Brautarholtskirkja. The church, which was constructed in the middle of the 19th century, is located in a neighbourhood named “Kjalarnes,” which, while being a little village miles away, is truly a part of Reykjavik. This Icelandic church is still quite active and well-maintained. Esjuberg, where the first church in Iceland is thought to have been built, is not far from Brautarholtskirkja Church. The first church in Esjuberg was constructed by Örlygur (gamli) Hrappsson of the Hebrides, long before Christianity became widely accepted in Iceland. With the flagpole and the Icelandic flag, I framed the church. Snow-covered Mount Esja is visible in the background. After a stunning woman named “Esja,” Mount Esja (also known as Reykjavik Mountain) was named.
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Just a few miles further along the Kjalarnes coastline from Brautaholtskirkja is Saubærkirkja. Saubærkirkja is a concrete church which was built in 1904.
Saubærkirkja in Kjalarnes replaced a wooden church that was destroyed in a violent storm in 1902. The old wooden church was built around the same time as Brautaholtskirkja by Eyjólfur Þorvarðarson. If you are driving from Reykjavik, the farm estate is the last left turn before you enter the tunnel that goes under Hvalfjordur.
Udalaskirkja is a red-roofed church in the Westfjords. The church is the most northerly church in this article and is close to a dead glacier. The Drangajökull Glacier was in the northern part of the Westfjords, one of the northernmost parts of Iceland. The now-extinct Drangajökull was the smallest glacier in Iceland, and Udalaskirkja was right on its doorstep. It is only practically possible to visit this Icelandic church in the summer because the road is not maintained in the winter. There is a sports club and guesthouse nearby. The owners told me about how a pregnant woman had to cross the Drangajökull Glacier to avoid starvation. This is thought to be the only known case of a pregnant woman crossing a glacier.
Hofskirkja is in the tiny hamlet of Hof in East Iceland. Hof is close to Skaftafell. This church has a turf roof and is the youngest of three surviving turf roof churches in Iceland. There is a guesthouse in Hof, but I have never heard a good word said about it. I have never stayed there.
There are two immaculate restrooms and an information desk at the church. A display details the history of the Icelandic church and those responsible for its construction.
Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran church and one of Reykjavik’s most famous landmarks. My photo only shows the steeple because I liked the way the snow had laid on the delicate architecture. The rest of Hallgrímskirkja is designed to resemble the basalt columns you see on the Reynisfjara Beach. Hallgrímskirkja is the largest Icelandic church. Some people consider it to be a cathedral.
LINK (Halgrimskirkja info)
Núpsstaður is an abandoned farmstead close to Kirkjubaerklaustur in East Iceland. It has been abandoned since the last of two brothers died, leaving the estate to the Museum of Iceland, which has just left it abandoned. This picture was taken on a cloudy day when access to the farmstead was permitted. The tiny chapel is one of only three turf-roofed churches in Iceland.
Búðarkirkja is a black church in Búðir on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland. This Icelandic church is black due to the pitch used to protect the wood from the elements. Búðarkirkja is just about 200km from Reykjavik, but just walking distance from one of Iceland’s top hotels.