Words of Interest: That Big Church - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Words of Interest: That Big Church

Words of Interest: That Big Church

Published May 12, 2016

Photos by
Eunsan Huh

Hallgrímskirkja is one of the most – if not the most – recognisable figure in Reykjavík’s modest skyline. The basalt column-inspired structure is the largest church in Iceland and took over 40 years to build. “Hallgrímskirkja” means “Church of Hallgrímur,” after Hallgrímur Pétursson, a poet and big “it” guy during the Icelandic Lutheran scene of the 1600s. He’s best known for writing the “Passion Hymns”, a chronicle of Jesus’s suffering and crucifixion.

Before he made a name for himself as a man of God, Hallgrímur reportedly ran away to Denmark to become a blacksmith. There he fell into the good graces of Bishop Brynjólfur Sveinsson (another famous Icelandic Christian), who sponsored Hallgrímur’s education.

While he was abroad, Hallgrímur was tasked with “re-Christianising” some poor Icelanders who had been kidnapped by North African pirates. Among these captives was a lady named Guðríður Símonardóttir. Hallgrímur fell in love with her and later put a ring on it.