The amazing church that dominates the skyline at the end of the Skólavörðustígur street in yesterday’s post, is as I mentioned there:”Hallgrímskirkja” (church of Hallgrímur) which is the Lutheran Church of Iceland.
” Nordic Adventure Travel, Places of Worship” website (link below) tells us:
Ideally situated on the hill Skolavorduholt, overlooking the centre of old Reykjavik, the church of Hallgrimur is the crown on Iceland’s capital with its magnificent 73 m high steeple rising above all other buildings in Reykjavik.
It is the largest church of the country with a seating capacity for 1200 people in the nave. It was under construction longer than any other building in Iceland and has at times generated considerable controversy.
The name of the Rev. Hallgrimur Petursson (1614-1674), without a doubt Iceland’s most beloved poet, was soon linked to the plans for the proposed church.
He influenced the nation’s spiritual development perhaps more than any other person, and generation after generation of Icelanders have read, memorized and quoted his best known work, Hymns of the Passion.
Iceland adopted Christianity in the year 1000 and was a part of the Roman Catholic Church until the Reformation in the 16th century, when the Icelandic church became Lutheran. to this day about 95% of the Icelandic population belong to the Lutheran Church.
State Architect Gudjon Samuelsson (1887-1950) was commissioned to design the Hallgrims church in 1937. The design is reminiscent of the rugged mountains and icecaps, which dominate Iceland’s landscapes.
Inevitably the design engendered controversy, especially its size and the towering steeple. Nonetheless a large number of people was determined to see the project through and the design remained unchanged.
The steeple and both wings were completed in 1974, providing the congregation with a better place for worship and other facilities. The nave was consecrated in 1986 on the bicentennial of the city of Reykjavik.
60% of the cost of construction has been raised by the congregation and private donations from all over the country, even from abroad, but government and city contributions have increased in latter years. In December 1992 a grand organ of 72 stops, commissioned from Johannes Klais in Bonn, was inaugurated.
The organ, by far the largest in Iceland, has four manuals and pedals, 5.,275 pipes and mechanical tracture. It stands 15 meters high and weighs some 25 tons.
The Hallgrims church has many interesting features. The main door into the sanctuary , large, stained window above the front entrance of the church and pulpit decorations were designed and made by the artist Leifur Breidfjord. The church also possesses a copy of the first Icelandic Bible, Gudbrandsbiblia, printed at Holar in 1584.
The Motet Choirs is among the best choirs in Iceland. it was founded by the church’s organist and cantor in 1982 and since then it has given numerous concerts and toured most countries of Europe.
The steeple is among the best known and most visible of Reykjavik’s landmarks and provides an unmistakable signpost for the city’s visitors. The view of the capital and its surroundings is superb from a platform 83 meters above sea level.
The steeple is open to the public against a small charge for those who use the elevator, which proceeds go towards the maintenance of the church. There are three big bells in the steeple and a carillon of 29 bells. The big bells carry the names Hallgrimur, Gudrun and Steinunn, named after the Rev., his wife and a daughter, who died young. The carillon is the first in Iceland and the church is one of only three churches in Reykjavik, which chime on the hour.