© Credits to istock / surangaw
© Credits to istock / surangaw
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Hallgrímskirkja - a church inspired by Icelandic nature

3 minutes to read

This rocket-shaped lutheran church near the center of Iceland's capital has already been voted both the ugliest and one of the most beautiful houses of worship in the world. One thing is sure - it is quite odd. You can like it or not, but you should make sure the second tallest building of Iceland finds its place in your cultural itinerary when in Reykjavik. Even if you don't find its minimalistic interior and unique architecture inspired by nature interesting, you can enjoy beautiful views over Reykjavik from there. 

© Credits to istock / barbara vallance
© Credits to istock / barbara vallance

After years of discussion about the location of it, the church was finally designed in 1937 by Guðjón Samuelsson, the state architect of Iceland. The construction works were however delayed because of the war. In 1945, the works slowly proceeded, starting with the crypt. The wings came in 1974, and the nave was done 12 years later. In the meantime the architect died, so he was only able to see the beginning of the construction. The church is dedicated to the most famous poet of Iceland, Hallgrímur Pétursson, author of the "Passion Hymns", and that explains its name. Hallgrímskirkja (Icelandic pronunciation: ​[ˈhatl̥krimsˌcʰɪr̥ca], means church of Hallgrímur. 

Hallgrímskirkja Church
Hallgrímskirkja Church
Hallgrímstorg 101, 101 Reykjavík, Islande

Just like far more famous Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, Hallgrímskirkja was also inspired by nature - in this case, more precisely, by the mesmerising forms created when lava cools into basalt rocks. In his works, Guðjón Samuelsson was often seeking a peculiar style of “Icelandic architecture”, looking  to achieve harmony of construction itself and the Icelandic landscape. This is why the wings and the steeple of Hallgrímskirkja remind of cliffs of basalt columns.

The most impressive feature of the church certainly is a gigantic 25 tons pipe organ constructed by the German organ builder Johannes Klais of Bonn. 

© Credits to istock / bahadir-yeniceri
© Credits to istock / bahadir-yeniceri

Although there is a box for donations (it's in fact an organ tube, not really a box!), this church is able to pay for its maintenance, and still to have some money left, only thanks to elevator fees that are paid by tourists taking a ride to top of the church tower. In 2017 at least 271,000 people took the elevator and paid around 7.33€ (1000ISK) each to go up.

© Credits to istock / sergdid
© Credits to istock / sergdid

Right in front of the church you will notice a fine statue of Leifur Eiríksson, the best known hero of Viking age Iceland. Eiriksson, according to Icelanders, first arrived to the shores of the new world in the year 1000 AD, making it 500 years before Columbus. The statue was designed by American sculptor Alexander Stirling Calder, and it was a gift the US to Iceland to celebrate the 1000 year anniversary of Alþingi, the parliament of Iceland. 

Leifur Eiríksson Statue
Leifur Eiríksson Statue
Hallgrímstorg 101, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
© Credits to istock / basiczto
© Credits to istock / basiczto

What sometimes shocks visitors coming from more conservative countries is the fact that gay weddings can happen in Hallgrimskirkja. A few years ago, The National Church of Iceland decided that  priests in Iceland cannot deny two people of marriage based on sexual orientation. Back then, the Bishop of Iceland, Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir, said that "the church is primarily a channel of the love of Christ and celebrates life in all its diversity."

© Credits to istock / Bibhash Banerjee
© Credits to istock / Bibhash Banerjee

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Natacha Costa

Natacha Costa

Hello, I will tell you about the south of France, the Azores, Iceland, among other places, here on itinari. Traveling has taught me more than any school, and I am excited to be sharing this passion of mine with you!

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