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Haukadalur Church

Region: South Iceland
Coordinates: 64.3260153° N 20.2829702° W

This church belongs to the Skalholt benefice of the Arnes deanery. The Catholic churches of Haukadalur were dedicated to the Holy Virgin, the apostle Andres, Bishop Marteinn and St. Barbara. Originally it was an annex to the church at Torfastadir. The first church was probably built in the year 1030, but the present one in 1842-43. It was pulled down, the foundations were renewed with concrete, and the church was rebuilt. It was increased in size and more windows were added. The altarpiece, the altar, pews and other belongings of the church were redecorated. The sculptor Asmundur Sveinsson carved the altarpiece, which depicts the crucifixion, in pear-wood. Among the valuable belongings of the church are a silver chalice, a paten, copper candlesticks and a chandelier. On its door is a plague, probably from a ship’s mast, an on it is fastened a ring.

The existence of the ring and a mound near the cemetery is based on a legend.

After Christianity had been adopted by law, churches were built all over the country. A giant and his wife lived in a cave in the Blue Mountain at the edge of the interior above the Haukadalur Valley. The giants name was Bergthor and his wife’s Hrefna. She wanted to move house further away from the chiming church-bells, but her husband opposed the idea. She could not bear listening to the chiming and moved to another cave just north of Lake Hvitarvatn, where it is called Hrefnubudir. Bergthor continued living in his cave and every now and then he went to the nearest village to buy provisions. On the way he usually visited his friend, the farmer at Haukadalur, to enjoy some refreshments on his way back home. Many years later, when Bergthor had grown old, he asked his friend to take care of his body after his death and bury it at Haukadalur where he could hear the church-bells and the sounds of the nearby river. He said he would leave his walking stick at the door of the farm as a token of his death when the time came.

As recompense for his inconvenience, the farmer should take what he would find in his chest by his bed. Everything went according to plan and the farmer took a few workers with him to carry the heavy burden down to the church. He opened the chest and found nothing but dried leaves and left them there. One of the workers, however, filled his pockets with leaves. When they arrived at the cemetery he found gold coins in his pockets instead of the leaves. The farmer buried his friend just north of the church on a ridge falling steeply down toward River Beina and used the ring from Bergthor’s walking stick to decorate the church-door.

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Photo Credit: Kirkjukort.net

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