During my trip planning and research of our Iceland trip, I realized that Iceland was full of beautiful churches. Ironically, I also discovered that Iceland is one of Europe’s “most Godless” countries.
Christianity in Iceland can be traced back to the 870’s but didn’t start spreading amongst the Icelanders until the end of the 10th century. Christian missionaries started to visit Iceland in the last decades of the 10th century.
A German missionary bishop, Friedrich who arrived to Iceland in 981 was the first among them. However, he was forced to depart from the island in 986 after his Icelandic aide, Thorvald Konradsson, murdered two men in a battle. There were many missionaries that followed.
When Gissur Teitsson and Hjalti Skeggjason, two Christitan Cheiftans arrived in Iceland, they were planning to set up a separate administration for the Christians. The sharp contrast between the most radical pagan and Christian chieftains’ views became manifest at the Alþingi of 999 or 1000.
In order to avoid the breaking out of a civil war, the goðar finally agreed to appoint one of their number, the Lawspeaker Thorgeir Thorkelsson – who was a pagan – to decide the case.
Legend says that Thorgeir Thorkelsson, who was a pagan, decided to throw all his domestic idols into a large waterfall which was named Goðafoss or “Gods’ Waterfall” after this event.
There are 41 registered religions in Iceland (43 if you include “other” and “no religion”). Most of them are varying Christian organizations, with the addition of groups including Muslims, Pagans, and Buddhists etc. Of all the Christian groups the National Church of Iceland is the biggest. There are approximately 400 or so churches in Iceland.
Read more about the history of Christianity in Iceland here.
During my planning, I decided to put a few of the main churches on our itinerary. However, after arriving, we ended up visiting several other churches as well because there were so many that we passed on our trip.
Since we visited so many churches, I thought I would devote a blog post to all the beautiful, unique churches we visited.
Hraungerðiskirkja is a quaint structure with a red roof. The church was constructed in 1902 by Eiríkur Gíslason frá Bitru. It is a wooden church and stands on the site of another former church that dated back to 1200 CE. It has been repaired and renovated over the years.
The next church was located near Hvolsvöllur – Rangárþing eystra in a small town called Ásólfsskála. It’s approximately 1 hr 15 mins from the last church. The name of this church is called Ásólfsskálakirkja.
The church was consecrated in 1955. Catholic churches were dedicated to Ólafur the Holy King of Norway.
The church in Holti was closed in 1888 and rebuilt at Ásólfsskála and served from Holti.
This is a beautiful church with a bright red roof and mountain backdrop!
This church belongs to the Vik benefice in the Skaftafell Deanery. In 1929 it was decided a church would be built in the village of Vik and the parsonage was moved there from Reynir in 1932. The remaining church was moved a short distance from the farm Reynir, which dates back to the early settlement.
Mt. Reynisfjall sits as a backdrop to this beautiful church. There is a small cemetery that surrounds the church.
Read reviews here
The next church was one of my favorites simply because of the shots you can get of this church. I had seem so many beautiful pictures of this church during my research that I couldn’t wait to photograph it myself.
This church is located approximately 10 mins from the last church and sits up above the small town of Vik. It’s called Vík í Mýrdal Church.
From the church, you get stunning views of the beach and the Reynisdrangar sea cliffs. The church itself is very pretty but if you drive up a little further from the parking lot you get a much better view. Most people photograph the church from here. There is a also a small cemetery located here.
The lupines were in full bloom so that just added to this stunning view!
The next church is 6.5 hrs away in Eglisstadir. I do find it hard to believe that I didn’t photograph anymore churches before we arrived to Eglisstadir as I’m sure there are lots more churches between Vik and Egilsstadir.
This church is called Egilsstaðakirkja.
The construction of the Egilsstaðir church began in 1968 and was consecrated on June 16, 1974. For a complete list of churches in Iceland click here.
This is a beautiful, modern looking church.
The next church was another one of my favorites. It’s located approximately 30 mins from the last church in the beautiful town of Seydisfjordur. The church is called Seyðisfjarðarkirkja & is also referred to as the blue church.
This church has a colorful path leading up to it. I’ve read that some have visited when the path wasn’t so colorful. The paint fades over time and the town has to keep painting it. So, you may or may not see the path as colorful as we saw it.
The Church is open to visitors in the summer.
The church at Reykjahlíð sits on the northern shore of Lake Mývatn in North Iceland. It was built in 1958-62. An earlier church building survived during a series of volcanic eruptions by Mývatn in 1724-29, when lava streams flowed on both sides of the church without consuming it. God was praised for this merciful act; however, he did not spare the farmhouses at Reykjahlíð, which were buried in lava.
Read more about the church here
Built in 1907, designed by the state architect, Rognvaldur Olafsson, the building plan takes the form of a cross and was built using wood imported from Norway.
This is a beautiful, picturesque church that sits across the street from the North Sailing building. It has a white wall exterior with red trim and green roof and steeple. It’s located on the main street of Husavik near the water.
If you walk around the other side of the marina you can take a nice picture of the reflection of the church in the water.
Most churches in Iceland are closed to visitors. We only found a handful that were opened. This church is opened to visitors. Just open the door and take a look…we didn’t visit the inside.
We stayed in the Fosshotel Husavik and had a balcony with a view of the church’s steeple…so beautiful!
The next church we spotted from the road but couldn’t find access to it so I just snapped a few pictures from the car. It was located in Svalbardsstrandarhreppur….try pronouncing that!!
This was another white church with a red roof sitting in a very picturesque setting.
The next church we visited was about 15 mins out of Akureyri and 30 mins from the last church. It was called Grundarkirkja.
The church at Grund was built in 1905 and is one of the most splendid churches of Iceland and by far the largest built by an individual. A few objects of value, formerly belonging to the church, are now in the keeping of the national Museum of Iceland. Those include a chalice from the 15th century and a church chair from the times of Þórunn the daughter of bishop Jón Árnason.
Read more about the church here and 4 other churches in this area.
The next church we visited was about 15 mins down the road from Grundarkirkja. It was called Saurbæjarkirkja. This was another one of my favorite churches.
Saurbæjarkirkja is one of 6 turf churches left in Iceland and the biggest one of the original turf churches. It was erected in 1858. Saurbæjarkirkja has belonged to the National Museum of Iceland since 1962 and is declared as protected.
The next church was back in Akureyri. We spotted it as we were heading to a different church in Akureyri. I can’t find any information on this church online so I’m not sure the name of the church.
The next church is only about a 5 min drive from the last church. It’s very popular with tourists because of its unique design. It’s called Akureyrarkirkja.
Akureyrarkirkja is a prominent Lutheran church located in the centre of the city and towering above the city on a hill, it was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson and completed in 1940.
The church contains a notably large 3200-pipe organ, a unique interpretation of the crucifixion and a suspended ship hanging from the ceiling which reflects an old Nordic tradition of giving offerings for the protection of loved ones at sea.
Read reviews here
There are lots of steps to walk up!
The next church is approximately 35 mins from the last church located in Dalvik. The name of the church is Stærri-Árskógskirkja.
A large and enchanting wooden church, it was consecrated in 1898, but it was damaged just two years later and shattered on it’s foundation. A new 150-seat, stone-built church with a turret, and a choir was built in 1926-1927 and was consecrated on June 6th.
The construction of the church began in 1931. Arne Finsen’s architect designed the church and Sverrir Tynes was a superintendent. Jón Guðmundsson and Einar Jóhannsson constructionists were selected for the project. The church was consecrated in 1932.
I loved how all the light fixtures had crosses on top of them.
A statue sitting outside the front door of the church.
The next church we visited was another one of my favorites. It’s approx 55 mins from the last church. It’s called Grafarkirkja. You can see the sign for this church right on the ring road.
This church is Iceland’s oldest turf church. Parts of the current turf church date back to the 17th century. The oldest account on Grafarkirkja is from around 1240.
This turf church is the only church in Iceland with a circular turf-wall around the graveyard and the church. The church is by far the oldest looking of the 6 remaining turf-churches in Iceland. It is, in fact, the only remaining so-called stave church in Iceland. It is made from timber and turf.
IF you haven’t noticed by now, most churches in Iceland end with Kirkja…that’s because it means church in Icelandic. 😉
The timber church of Sauðárkrókur was built in 1892 and consecrated on December 18th.The church remained unchanged until the tower was demolished in 1957. It was rebuilt and the church was expanded at the same time. Stefán Jónsson, architect from Sauðárkrókur, sketched the changes. In 1971, the church was renovated.
The next church is located approximately 40 mins from the last church. It’s located in Blonduos and yes you guessed it, it’s called Blonduoskirkja.
Blönduóskirkja was designed by Dr. Maggi Jónsson and consecrated in 1993. It was designed to resemble an erupting volcano. It’s a very modern looking church.
Click here for more churches in this area
The next church is located approximately 1 hr from the last church in Dalabyggð. We spotted it from the road and didn’t see any way to access it so I photographed it from the road.
This church is located on a farm that sits on the edge of the water with the mountains in the background. I thought the white rolls of hay added to the shot.
Stykkishólmur’s futuristic church, designed by Jón Haraldsson, has a sweeping bell tower that looks like a whale vertebra. The interior features hundreds of suspended lights and a painting of the Madonna and child floating in the night sky.
Grundarfjörður Church was opened on July 31, 1961 and took five years to build. The church was built in stages. To help build the church, two groups of volunteers, foreigners and locals, from various other congregations assisted. In 1982 the last section of the church was completed and it coincided with the 90th anniversary of Setberg church.
This relatively small church seats 200 and the sign out front says it was the first modernist church in Iceland. From above they say it resembles a salted cod & from north to south it resembles a ship.
The architect of the church consists only of triangles which is symbol of the holy trinity and the fish was the first symbol of Christians.
This cozy, coastal church, built in 1945, was built on the site of an older church dating back to 1833. It’s constructed from sheet metal over a wooden frame, a method typical of Icelandic churches of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The first Búðakirkja was built on the spot in 1703, but was eventually deconstructed due to the areas lack of parishioners. The current church was reconstructed in 1987 after a single member of the church lobbied to have the chapel brought back.
It has a historic graveyard as well as relics such as a bell and chalice from the time the church was first erected. However its pure black paint job and isolated location are the real attraction to the site.
We couldn’t have stopped at a better time to photograph this church..not only did the sky have a beautiful pinkish hue but there were sheep standing all around the church. It was just a picture perfect moment!
The next church was approximately 35 mins from the last church. It’s located in the Snaefellsness Peninsula but the location is called Eyja – go Miklaholtshreppur. The name of the church is Faskrudarbakki Church. I couldn’t find any information online about this particular church.
There’s a sign on the side of the road for the church
The current church was built in 1926 and is made of concrete. The church has a pulpit and altar from a former church from the mid-19th century. There is an oil painting from 1928 by painter Eyjólfur Eyfell’s. This is a reproduction of another image with the words of Christ “Let the children come to me.”
Read more about this church here
The church, currently located in Stóra-Ási was built in 1897 by Jón Magnusson, the church’s son. The Altaristaflan was painted by Carl Bloch and shows Jesus coming out of the grave. The tin baptismal shows the year 1726.
The church has some remarkable treasures. On the altar, which dates back to 1837, there is an old one-piece candlesticks and five arms of light hanging from below the ceiling. The palace and patina of the church are made of silver.
The oldest church is called Reykholt Church and was built in 1896-97 and was in use until 1996. It is now under protection of the National Museum and is open for all visitors.
The new church was built 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 was also constructed. Snorrastofa is a cultural and medieval centre, founded in memory of Snorri Sturluson and situated in his ancient homestead at Reykholt.
In the oldest church, the 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.
This church built in 1957 as a tribute to the 17th-century hymn writer Hallgrimur Petursson, one of Iceland’s best-loved poets. The crucifix on the altar dates back to the turn of the 15th century and decorated Rev. Hallgrim’s church in the 17th century.
This church has awesome views of the mountains and ocean!
The next church we visited was approximately 1 hr from the last church. It’s probably the most visited church in Iceland. It’s located in Iceland’s capital and largest city, Reykjavik . The church is called Hallgrimskirkja.
Construction of the church began in 1945 and ended in 1986, with the tower completed long before the rest of the building. The crypt beneath the choir was consecrated in 1948, the steeple and wings completed in 1974 and the nave consecrated in 1986.
The church was designed after the basalt columns found all over Iceland.
The church features, most notably, a gargantuan pipe organ designed and constructed by the German organ builder Johannes Klais of Bonn. Standing tall at an impressive 15m and weighing a remarkable 25 tons.
The church is open to visitors all year. For $10 you can take the elevator to the top for some spectacular views of the city.
There is a statue of explorer Leif Erikson that sits in front of the church. It was built by Alexander Stirling Calder. It was a gift from the United States in honor of the 1930 Althing Millennial Festival, commemorating the 1000th anniversary of Iceland’s parliament at Þingvellir in 930 AD.
The next church we visited or should I say, saw because I snapped pictures from the car, was also located in Reykjavik. We passed it on our way to Thingvellir National Park. This church is approximately 15 mins from the last church. It’s called Fríkirkjan í Reykjavík.
Frikirkjan is a church that is set apart from the State Church. It is an independent Lutheran Free Church of Iceland. It lies in the centre of the Icelandic capital, by the lake Tjörnin.
The church was established in Reykjavík in the autumn of 1899. It had an initial membership of 600.
Read more about the history of this church here
The church is located in historic Mosfellsdal (Mosfell Valley) and was constructed and consecrated on April 4, 1965.
Mosfell church was the gift of StefÃ¡n ÃorlÃ¡ksson, a man who believed the best use for his fortune was to build a church. The church is located near the site of several historic Churches build in the early days of Iceland.
This was one of the coolest churches we saw! It was highly modern and very, very pointy, possibly the pointiest of all the Icelandic churches.
The present church at Þingvellir was consecrated in 1859, and in 1907 the spire was rebuilt and altered. There are three bells in the spire, one of them ancient, another donated by bishop Jón Vídalín when he was ordained in 1698, and a third that was made to “ring in” independence in 1944.
Among the treasures in the church are a pulpit dating from 1683 and an altarpiece painted by local farmer Ófeigur Jónsson in 1834. The church acquired another altarpiece by the Danish painter Anker Lund in 1896, and both altarpieces are used. The baptismal font was designed by a local farmer, Guðmann Ólafsson, in 1962.
The church is opened to visitors.
The church was built in 2005-2006 and is owned by Björn Sigurðsson, a farmer in Úthlíð. He built the church in memory of Mrs. Ágúst Ólafsdóttir, his wife, who died before the fall of 2004.
Úthlíðarkirkja seats up to 120 people. In the church there is a very beautiful baptismal dress that Ingibjörg Sigurðardóttir made. The church is very small and quaint.
It had beautiful chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.
The next church we visited was located a few minutes from the last church. It was called Braedratungukirkja. It’s a typical traditional white church with a red roof.
I was unable to find any information about this church online.
The next church was located approximately 25 mins from the last church. The name of this church is called Skalholt.
The present church was built between 1956 and 1963 to commemorate the 1000 years since the diocese was founded in 1056. The cathedral was consecrated in 1963. The cathedral was built on the site of all 9 previous churches that had stood on the exact site throughout the 1000 years since the establishment of the diocese.
Excavations carried out on the site prior to the building of the cathedral proved this. Excavations unearthed several headstones of various bishops of Skálholt including a stone coffin that included the remains of one of the bishops that can be seen in the basement of the church.
There’s also a turf covered Bible museum located beside the church.
Read reviews here
It was built in 1909 and consecrated on November 14, after it was decided to shut down the churches in Reykjar and Arnarbæli. Kotstrandarkirkja has been an archaeological site from Hveragerði since 1940.
The church is made of iron-plated timber and seats 200 people. The old altar table is from Reykjakirkja and Örlygur Sigurðsson painted the painting by Rev. Ólafur Magnusson.
Read reviews here
The next church we visited was located in Reykjavik but spotted it as we were headed towards our hotel in Keflavik. We saw it from the highway. I can’t find this church online.
Here’s a couple of pictures I took of road signs as we were getting off the exit to head towards the church.
It was a really cool, triangular shaped church made of sheet metal. It reminded me of a teepee.
The next church was located in Keflavik. We passed it on our way to our hotel. We didn’t stop so I just snapped a couple of pics while we were driving. 🙂
The hubby was getting a bit frustrated that I wanted to stop at every church we passed so I tried to snap a few pics from the car when we didn’t stop.
The name of this church was Ytri-Njardvikurkirkja.
For a long time people fought for the church to be built in Ytri- Njarðvík, and a woman named Þórlaug Magnúsdóttir made a foundation in the year 1948 to save money so the church could be built. On Sept. 13th, 1969 construction began.
The church is a popular place for concerts due to the great sound quality.
Last but not least is a church I took a picture of somewhere along the Ring Road. I took it with my digital camera and I don’t remember when/where I took it. Here’s a shot of the church. If you know where this church is located leave a comment.
Thanks for reading!
If you’re interested in reading anymore of my blogs on Iceland click here for my full itinerary, here for Day 1, here for Day 2, here for Day 3, here for Day 4, here for Day 5, here for Day 6 and here for Day 7.