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Catholic Church

Region: Reykjavik Area
Coordinates: 64.1474974° N 21.9486932° W

Christ the King Cathedral

The church was consecrated 23 July, 1929 by Pope Pius XI’s special envoy , Cardinal van Rossum, and is dedicated to Jesus Christ, eternal God and King. The cathedral bears the name „Christ the King” in honour of Christ’s Lordship of the Universe. This feast was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925. The church is under the protection of the Blessed Virgin, Mary Mother of God, Saint Joseph and two Icelandic holy men, Jon Ogmundarson and Thorlakur Thorhallsson. The three church bells are dedicated to Christ the King, Our Lady and St. Joseph.

Pope Pius XI gave several gifts to the church of which two are now seen in the cathedral. Above the high altar is a statue of Christ, carved out of cedar wood, which shows out Lord standing on the globe of the earth. This statue is unique as the artist, Campanya from Barcelona, gave the instruction, that no copies could be made. Near the entrance above the bulletin board is a tablet named „Mary Queen of the Missionaries”, which the Pope gave to the church in 1936. It is carved in walnut wood and signifies the Catholic Church calling all peoples and leading them together to where the Virgin Mother holds her son Jesus above the dome of St. Peter’s. Pope Pius XI, shown with the tiara, is praised for his missionary efforts. This beautiful work of art was made in the town of Bozen in Tyrol and was a special gift to the Pope.

The only Icelandic saint

In the aisle on the left hand side (coming into the nave) we have St. Thorlakur (1133-93) the patron saint of Iceland. He is the only Icelandic saint, who has formally been recognized by the Holy See. He was canonized locally in 1198, but it was not until 14 January, 1984 that his elevation to the full honours of the altar was confirmed when Pope John Paul II declared him Iceland’s patron. The statue was blessed on 20 July, 1995 but that day in 1198 his relics were enshrined in his cathedral at Skalholt. The shrine was destroyed during the Reformation. He is honoured on 20 July as well as 23 December, the day of his death.

The Stations of the Cross were given to the church in 1976 by Dr. Rudolf Graber, bishop of Regensburg, Germany. They were painted in Bavaria about a century before.

Just beyond Our Lady’s altar is an Icelandic medieval wooden statue of the Holy Mother with the Child. It is believed to be from the 14th century and was donated to the Catholic Church in 1926. When Pope John Paul II visited Iceland in 1989, he blessed the crown on the statue’s head, which was especially made for that occasion.

A little further back we have a statue of St. Teresa of Lisieux (1873-97) holding a crucifix and roses and there is also St. Antony of Padua (1195-1231), who holds the Bible while talking to the Infant Jesus. On the right hand side of the sanctuary is a statue of St. Louis Maria Grignion de Montfort (1673-1716), founder of the Company of Mary. Priests of that congregation were entrusted with the care of the Catholic mission in Iceland from 1903 until 1968, when officially Iceland became a diocese. Behind St. Louis de Montfort is a statue of St. Joan of Arc – The Maid of Orléans (1412-31) – is to be seen.

Near the door to the sacristy is a sculptured portrait of Cardinal van Rossum and below him is a white marble plaque of John the Baptist. Also to be seen is a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

All three altars were in the old church which was dedicated in 1897. the crucifix above the main altar was previously in the chapel of St. Joseph’s hospital across the street. The crucifix and the bishop’s chair were carved by the Icelandic artist Rikhardur Jonsson. The painting facing Our Lady’s altar is of St. Luke the evangelist, having symbols attributed to his writings. Women figure more prominently in Luke’s Gospel than in the others, and his symbol, an ox, refers to the spirit of sacrifice that prevails in his Gospel. The painting facing St. Joseph’s altar was in the old church, but information about it is lacking.

Bust of Bishop Meulenberg

Outside the church is a bust of Bishop Meulenberg (1872-1941) who had the cathedral erected. He was ordained 25 July, 1929 in Iceland and was the first Catholic bishop to reside in the country since the brutal execution of Bishop Jon Arason by Danish soldiers 7 November, 1550. Bishop Meulenberg became titular bishop of the see of Holar in direct succession to his executed predecessor

Other Catholic churches in Iceland are: The Church of Holy Mary at Raufarsel in Reykjavik, The Church of Holy Joseph in Hafnarfiord and The Church of Holy Peter in Akureyri.

Catholic Chapels are situated in the two convents in Stykkisholmur and Hafnarfjordur and in the towns Keflavik, Akureyri and Isafjordur.

SOUTHWEST ICELAND SAGA TRAILS

Photo Credit: Catholica.is

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