Friday, December 18, 2015
Church of Hallgrímur
The church of Hallgrimur is the crown on Iceland’s capital with its magnificent 73 m high steeple rising above all other buildings in Reykjavik. It is the largest church of the country with a seating capacity for 1200 people in the nave. It was under construction longer than any other building in Iceland and has at times generated considerable controversy. Ideally situated on the hill Skolavorduholt, overlooking the centre of old Reykjavik, the site for Hallgrims church was in fact set aside early this century for the purpose of building just such a large church to serve the eastern part of the rapidly growing town.
The name of the Rev. Hallgrimur Petursson (1614-1674), without a doubt Iceland’s most beloved poet, was soon linked to the plans for the proposed church. He influenced the nation’s spiritual development perhaps more than any other person, and generation after generation of Icelanders have read, memorized and quoted his best known work, Hymns of the Passion. Iceland adopted Christianity in the year 1000 and was a part of the Roman Catholic Church until the Reformation in the 16th century, when the Icelandic church became Lutheran. to this day about 95% of the Icelandic population belongs to the Lutheran Church.
Hallgrímur was under construction for more than 30 years and finally completed in 1974, inspiring much controversy along the way thanks to its radical form. And while the architect, Guðjón Samúelsson, did not live to see the church’s completion, he’d surely be honored by its presence on nearly every Reykjavík postcard. For a small fee, you can ride an elevator up into the steeple for fabulous views across the capital and out to the Atlantic (rides are 500 Icelandic króna — about $4.40 — per person). The minimalist interior is in keeping with the church’s Lutheran heritage, save for one bold element: an enormous organ with some 5,000 pipes that tower up to 50 feet high