Friday Postcards from Hallgrímskirkja Church Iceland

 In Europe

Churches are one of my favorite architectural monuments to visit when we travel, and you really can’t miss the biggest one in Iceland. Hallgrimskirkja Church (don’t worry, I can’t pronounce it either), is the largest church in Iceland, and the sixth largest structure in the country, coming behind things like radio towers and transmitters, which let’s face it, really don’t count when you are photographing the scenery. Named after Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614 to 1674), this Lutheran church  is a dominant fixture in the capital city of Reykjavik. It also has one heck of a view from the top.


A little history according to Wikipedia: 
State Architect Guðjón Samúelsson’s design of the church was commissioned in 1937. He is said to have designed it to resemble the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s landscape. It took 38 years to build the church. Construction work began in 1945 and ended in 1986. The landmark tower being completed long before the church’s actual completion… Situated in the centre of Reykjavík, it is one of the city’s best-known landmarks and is visible throughout the city. It is 1676 Square meters. It is similar in style to the expressionist architecture of Grundtvig’s Church of Copenhagen, Denmark, completed in 1940.


Although the size does strike you first, the doors are what drew me in. This church isn’t like the other churches of Europe. There is a stark beauty to the design. The architectural style is definitely not gothic or renaissance derived; it is industrial and turn of the century modern. The soaring interior has very little embellishment, which makes it all the more impactful when you look up towards the heavens and see the arches, not marred by Corinthian columns, paintings or ornate textures. The church organ springs from the wall in an array of wood and metal. The few stain glass windows are simple, yet significant in their storytelling. Overall, this church is letting natural light tell the story. Few distractions allow parishioners to focus on what they have come to find… God.


Although the interior is worth the visit alone, the view from the top of the tower is why many visitors pay the fee to go up the elevator. Modern stain glass windows show scenes of Iceland. While these newer windows aren’t exactly my taste, the view over Reykjavik certainly was. Grey skies, snow and all, we had come to Iceland to get a taste of the culture and life of this remote island nation. By the end of our stay we had barely scratched the surface. The art and architecture in Reykjavik could satisfy most art lovers, while the natural beauty in the country side would make even the most city-loving individual want to strap on some hiking boots to explore the waterfalls, geysers, lakes and valleys this country has to offer.

The stark simplicity of Hallgrimskirkja was actually the perfect example of Iceland. Simple, sparsely decorated walls on the inside, but incredibly powerful and impressive on the outside. Soaring over the city, this church, just like the island had a few secrets, but it was the simple beauty in front of you that made it a place to come back to again and again.

Hallgrimskirkja Hallgrimskirkja


Friday Postcards

READ FIRST: Welcome to Friday Postcards, a place where I will share a small memory or “postcard” moment from our travels. I hope you will join me too. Link your favorite photo-driven post here if you have a blog so we can share the joys of traveling with each other. If you would like to spread the word, please link back to this post in your own post so others will know where to find a little travel inspiration to end their week. #fridaypostcards

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  • Tara

    That’s really cool. That organ is impressive, and of course your photos… they make me want to book a flight right now. My only visit to Iceland was in the dead of winter, when the sun barely made it over the horizon. Like this church, it was stark but beautiful.

  • Tonya

    What a gorgeous church. I like the simplicity of the design. My husband wants to visit Iceland next year, so I’m going to read all your posts so I know where to go. 🙂 I think the landscape looks gorgeous, but recently heard from another travel writer that it doesn’t compare to the PNW. Would love your opinion since you lived in Washington.

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