Saga of the Icelanders, by Sturla Thordarson, is the first
source to mention Bessastadir. There it is said to be the
property of the powerful chieftain and author Snorri
Sturluson. After his murder in 1241, Bessastadir became the
first property of the kings of Norway in Iceland. It soon
became the seat of the most powerful officials of the kings
and served as such until the end of the 18th century.
This parish is on the
peninsula Alftanes just south of the capital. The
presidential residence in houses dating back to the early
19th century along with the late 18th century church are
beautifully situated in the open landscape at Bessastadir.
The church is open for guests and is well worth visiting,
bearing in mind not to cross the small square between
it and the residence behind it. On and around
the lagoons is one of the many birdwatchers' paradises of
has been expanding rapidly during the last few decades. The first
recorded information on Bessastadir dates back to the turn of the 12th
century, when the farm was the property of the renowned chieftain and
author Snorri Sturluson. After his murder in 1241 the property was
seized by the Norwegian king, thus becoming the first such to fall
into the hands of the kings. Soon after that Bessastadir became the
seat of the governors of the country and their mansions stood there
until the end of the 18th century.
Early in the 20th century, a director in the capital bought
the property and donated it to the state in 1941 on the
condition that it would become and remain the seat of the
Icelandic presidents. It remained the seat of the governor
until 1944, when the first president was elected by
Ever since the year 1000 there have been churches at
Bessastadir. The present one was consecrated in 1796 and
last renovated in 1998. It is among the oldest houses made
of stone in the country.
THE ESTATE and PARSONAGE
GOVERNOR's & PRESIDENTIAL RESIDENCE BESSASTADIR
1867, Bessastadir became private property again until a
Reykjavik businessman, Sigurdur Jonsson, donated it for the
future residence of the Icelandic presidents in 1941. It is
assumed, that Bessastadir has been a site of a church since the year 1000 and the
first documented sources mention a church there in the year 1200. It
took about 20 years to finish the construction of the present church,
which was consecrated in 1796.
It is among the oldest buildings made
of cemented stones in the country. The construction of the steeple was
not finished until 1823. The church possessed one third of the
Bessastadir property in the 15th century, when the first governors of
Norway made their seat there. The church and its possessions were
confiscated by the Norwegian crown. Christian VII of Denmark decided
in 1773 to have a new church constructed. It is not quite clear, who
designed it, but most likely it was G.D. Anthon.
material, stones from the Gallow Lava field east of Bessastadir, was
transported on open boats. In 1841, The Bessastadir School came into
possession of Bessastadir and the church became a county church in
1867 and remained as such until 1941. The church was decorated with
its stained windows in 1956 to commemorate the 60th birthday of the
second president of the country, Asgeir Asgeirsson.
The altar rail
depicts the apostles and remind of the protecting spirits of the
country. The large, carved crucifix on the north wall was the
altarpiece before. The present one shows Jesus healing the sick. The
altar cloth is made of flax, grown at Bessastadir. A thorough
restoration of the church was carried out in 1998.
SOUTHWEST ICELAND SAGA TRAILS