Icelanders gathered at River Oxara in Thingvellir,
The Parliamentary Plains, for the
first time in 930 AD. From then until 1798, continuously for 868
years, Thingvellir was the nation's meeting place.
The first part of this period
has been named "The Golden Age of Iceland". These words refer to the
Icelandic Commonwealth that lasted from 930 to 1262. All this time,
Iceland was an independent nation. The Althing (Icelandic Parliament)
in Thingvellir held the supreme authority of the country. The Althing
was both a legislative and judicial assembly. There, disputes from all
over the country were resolved. In ancient times, the Althing convened
each year at the end of June for a session of approximately
two weeks, but in later centuries, the
session lasted one
week at the beginning of July.
During the "The Golden Age of Iceland", Thingvellir was
the site of very many events related in the Icelandic Sagas. Most of
these sagas were written in the 13th century and are the cornerstone
of Icelandic civilization.
After 1262, Iceland became a part of the monarchy of the Norwegian
King and later of the Danish King. The Althing nevertheless continued
to convene in Thingvellir as a legislative assembly and judicial court
up to the end of the 18th century. Signs can also be seen of general
festivals being held during this period. Thus, Thingvellir, as in
earlier times, was a centre of national life at the time of assembly
In the 19th century, several gatherings were held in
Thingvellir. The most outstanding one was the National Celebration of
1874 when Iceland acquired its constitution. Poets then wrote poetry
about Thingvellir, and the site became a symbol for all that Iceland
is. In the 20th century, Icelanders have held national
celebrations in Thingvellir attended by a great many people. The most
remarkable one was the Dedication of the Republic on 17 June 1944 when
the Republic of Iceland was founded. From this occasion and others,
Thingvellir has become, as the Act of 1928 on the Protection of
Thingvellir states, "the sacred site of all Icelanders".
In addition to the above, Thingvellir is remarkable for reasons of
natural science. The site of the ancient Althing lies in a rift
valley. The basin is part of the Great Atlantic Rift that runs through
Iceland from the South-west to the North-east. The rift valley basin
in Thingvellir today has been formed over the last 10,000 years. Lake
Thingvellir is the largest lake in Iceland and teems with life.
Thingvellir has been protected since 1928 and is the
oldest national park in Iceland. The Thingvellir National Park is
under the management of the Althing.