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Reykholt Church

Region: West Iceland
Coordinates: 64.6646854° N 21.2922978° W

A church was built in Reykholt in the early years of Christianity in Iceland. Chieftains at Breidabolstaðir established the church and five of them were priests in Reykholt until the last one sold the benefice to Snorri Sturluson in the year 1206.

A church estate was founded in Reykholt before or at the mid 12th century. This meant that the church took possession of Reykholt including several other farms and properties. The so-called Chartulary of Reykholt (Reykjaholtsmaldagi), a list of properties and rights of the local church, comes from this period. It is the oldest preserved original document written in Icelandic. A church at Reykholt is consecrated in the name of God, Peter the Evangelist, Mary the Mother of God, the virgin martyr Barbara and Bishop Dionysius.

From 1297 until the Reformation, bishops in Skalholt ruled in Reykholt and delegated priests to the church. In the years 1550 through 1567 two lawyers had the feudal rights to the land including church income. One of these men was Oddur Gottskalksson, who translated the New Testament into Icelandic. It was published in Roskilde, Denmark in the year 1540.

After 1567 the same family resided at Reykholt consecutively for 185 years. Some clergymen of this family were among the foremost scholars and scientists of their time. Reverend Jon Halldorsson, named after Hitardalur, was a son of a clergyman from Reykholt and the father of the bishop Finnur Jonsson, the author of Historia Ecclesiastica Islandiae. His son was Hannes Finnsson, the last of the bishops to reside in Skalholt before the episcopacy was moved to Reykjavík. These men collected a large archive of ancient documents, which later shared in the foundation of The National Archive. Jon Sigurdsson used their research as a source in his publication of Diplomatarium Islandicum (Islenskt Fornbrefasafn), as well as in other scholarly and political writings. These related men, often referred to as “The Men from Reykholt” (Reykhyltingar) were pioneers in the research field of two major cultural institutions: The Arni Magnusson Institute in Iceland and The National Archive.

A new church was built in Reykholt in the years 1988-1996, and it was consecrated on St. Olafs Day in summer 1996.

In conjunction with the church building, the future building of Snorrastofa is also constructed.

These church bells are among the very oldest belongings of the parish. The larger one is thought to be from the 13th century, and the other one has the year 1742 embossed on it and the following verse inscription:

Klocken lyder
tiden gaar
Gud samle os
i engle kaar

(The bell tolls
time goes
God gather us
among angels)

West Iceland Saga Trail

Photo Credit: Kirkjan.is

Links in Reykholt Church