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10 beautiful Icelandic churches to visit

By Sara McMahon

  • Hallgrímskirkja church The most photographed church in Iceland is without a doubt the majestic Hallgrímskirkja church, standing tall on top of Skólavörðuholt hill, downtown Reykjavík. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

The most photographed church in Iceland is without a doubt the majestic Hallgrímskirkja church, standing tall on top of Skólavörðuholt hill, downtown Reykjavík. But there is an abundance of beautiful or unusual churches and chapels to be found around Iceland, such as the unique stave church in Vestmannaeyjar islands, the small but modest Ábæjarkikja in Skagafjörður, and Hofskirkja turf church.

Here’s Iceland Magazine’s list of 10 beautiful churches to visit in Iceland.

1.Ábæjarkirkja church in Skagafjörður, North Iceland
Ábæjarkirkja was inspired by the old, Icelandic turf houses. Built in 1922, the modest church is one of the oldest buildings designed by former State Architect of Iceland Guðjón Samúelsson

Ábæjarkirkja

Ábæjarkirkja Photo/Jóna Þórunn/Kirkjukot.is

2. The Stave Church in Heimaey island, South Iceland
The gorgeous stave church in Heimaey was a presented as a gift to the Icelandic nation by Norway in 2000, to commemorate the 1000-year anniversary of Christianity in Iceland. The building’s architecture is reminiscent of that of the Viking era and inside one will find a lovely replica of a medieval altarpiece.

Heimaey_Stafakirkja_Heimaklettur.jpg

The stave church in Heimaey Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

3. Árbæjarkirkja church in the Árbæjarsafn Open Air Museum, Reykjavík
Dating back to 1834, the enchanting turf building was relocated and rebuilt in Árbæjarsafn Museum in 1960.

Árbæjarsafn, torfbær

Árbæjarkirkja in winter Photo/GVA

4. Kópavogskirkja church in Kópavogur, Capital Area
Construction of Kópavogskirkja began in 1958 and was completed four years later. The unique building stands on top of Borgarholt hill in the Reykjavík suburb of Kópavogur and overlooks Reykjanes peninsula to the south and Snæfellsnes peninsula to the north.

Kópavogskirkja, Kópavogur

Kópavogskirkja Photo/Sigurður Herlufsen/Kirkjukot

5. Þingvallakirkja church in Þingvellir National Park, South Iceland
According to old documents a church was erected at Þingvellir soon after Icelanders converted to Christianity in 1000. King Ólafur Haraldsson, also known as Ólafur digri, of Norway shipped wood and a church bell to Iceland for a stave church at Þingvellir in 1015. The church was called Þingmannakirkja (The Church of Parliamentarians).
The current wooden building dates back to 1859. Its interior is relatively plain, with a painted altarpiece from 1834 and a wooden pulpit.

Þingvellir_autumn.jpg

Þingvellir and Þingvallakirkja Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson

6. Flateyjarkirkja church in Flatey island, West Iceland
Once a church, now Iceland’s smallest library, Flateyjarkirkja used to house the Flateyjarbók (Flatey Book), the largest medieval Icelandic manuscript, comprising 225 written and illustrated vellum leaves.
Flatey island used to be one of the main cultural centres of Iceland, with a large monastery located on the island’s highest point. The current church was built in 1926 and its inside is bedecked with paintings by artist Baltasar Samper.

Flateyjarkirkja

Flateyjarkirkja Photo/Kirkjukot.is

7. Hofskirkja church in Öræfi, Southeast Iceland
Hofskirkja church has survived 130 years of natural disasters and unpredictable weather. The iconic church stands in the Öræfi region, around 20 km east of Vatnajökull glacier. The roof is made of stone slabs and covered by turf. Additionally, Hofskirkja church is one of six churches in Iceland that are preserved as historical monuments. The National Museum of Iceland has overseen the building’s maintenance since 1953.

Hofskirkja í Öræfum

Hofskirkja í Öræfum Photo/Tómas Adolf Ísleifur Bickel/Kirkjukot.is

8. Selárdalskirkja Samúels (Samúel’s Selárdalur Church) in Selárdalur valley, Westfjords
Farmer and artist Samúel Jónsson from Selárdalur, often named ‘The Artist with the Child’s Heart’ built the unique church in the 1950’s to house an altarpiece he had painted and gifted Selárdalskirkja to commemorate the church’s 200th anniversary. Church officials turned down the gift as the church already had an altarpiece.

selardalskirkja.jpg

Samúel's Selárdalskirkja church Photo/Kirkjukot.is

9. Auðkúlukirkja church in Húnvatnssýsla, Northwest Iceland
The oval shape of Auðkúlukirkja church makes it quite unique. The small church was built in 1894 by Þorsteinn Sigurðsson from Sauðárkrókur village.

10. Þingeyrarkirkja church, Northwest Iceland
Member of Parliament Ásgeir Einarsson (1809-1885) funded and oversaw the construction of the beautiful Þingeyrarkirkja church, a project that lasted 13 years. The stones used for construction were hauled over ice and snow on sleds from Nesbjörg, located further west to Þingeyrar. 

 

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