This renowned, ancient manor was called Skrida up to the time when Bishop Stefan Jonsson of Skalholt established the last monastery of the country there in 1493. It was the only monastery of the eastern part of the country and the nearest convent in the south was at Kirkjubaejarklaustur, and the nearest monastery in the north was at Munkathvera. The church at Skrida was consecrated on the 23rd of August 1496 and abolished in 1792. At that time, there were three churches at neighbouring farms in the Fljot-valley. The oldest was at Bessastadir. Now only one remains at Vathjofsstadur.
The reformation took place in the southern see of the country in 1541, but the monastery was not abolished until 1552 and the Danish king seized all its belongings. Many rich men became vassals of the king and sat at Skriduklaustur, among them a few magistrates, and revenue officers. The last vassal seated there was Pall Olafsson, the poet. The ruins of the church and the cemetery are still relatively clear.
In 1930 a renowned Icelandic author, Gunnar Gunnarsson, who had spent most of his life in Denmark and gathered fame and fortune, bought the property and moved into a new house there in 1939. The German architect Fritz Höger designed the house. Its area is 315 metres square, and it has two storeys and an attic. Gunnar lived there until 1948, when he moved to the capital. He donated the property to the state on several conditions concerning cultural and scientific activities, which should be practiced there in the future.
During the period 1949 to 1990, an agricultural research centre was operated there, concentrating mainly on sheep breeding and cultivation.
The Gunnar Gunnarsson’s Institute was established by law in 1997, and the Ministry of Education assumed responsibility of Skriduklaustur in 1999. This institute now operates a cultural and an educational centre with an apartment for visiting artists and scholars, a small restaurant and various cultural events the whole year round.
Skriduklaustur is located about 50 metres above sea level and 49 miles from the sea.
After the establishment of Europe’s largest national park, Vatnajokull, on June 7th, 2008, Skriduklaustur became one of its visitors’ centres.
Photo Credit: Villy Fink Isaksen