on June 29, 2013
Almost wherever you go in Reykjavik you can see the tower of the Hallgrimskirja, it is probably the most famous building in the city and the main landmark. It is very easy to find - just look for the tower. We walked up a shopping street called Skolvordustigur and found the church right at the top.Hallgrimskirja is big and impressive - it is the largest church in Iceland. It is also supposed to be the most photographed place in the city. The steeple is really tall - 73 metres and rises way above all the other buildings. Inside, the church can seat 1,000 worshippers at a time.It looks very unusual from the outside - but I really liked it. It is made out of concrete and was designed by an architect called Gudjon Samuelson. It is very distinctive, I have never before seen a church that looks like this. The architect was inspired by the landscape in Iceland with all its volcanoes and glaciers. There are a lot of columns at the front - they are supposed to resemble hexagonal basalt formed by cooling lava. They reminded me of the lava columns at the Giants Causeway. Apparently lots of the locals hated the building at first and it still has mixed reviews.The church only opened in 1986 but it took over 40 years to build. It is named after Hallgrimur Petursson, a clergyman and writer of hymns. At the top of the steeple, there are 3 bells which represent Hallgrimur, his wife and their daughter.The church is beautiful inside - very plain and simple in the style of many Lutheran churches. It was also very bright and full of light. Have a look at the organ, it is the largest organ in Iceland. It is 50 feet tall and was built in Germany in 1992. They have various performances in the church, including choral performances which are supposedly excellent. We did not get to experience this. If you are here on a Sunday, there are services at 11:00am. Apparently the accoustics inside the church are perfect so it would be worth going to one of the services.It is definitely worth paying the small fee - 600 Icelandic krona for adults and 100 Icelandic krona for children - to go up to the top of the steeple. You get a really stunning view of the city. The tower is open every day between 9am and 8pm. There is a lift, so you have only a few steps to climb at the top. It was extremely windy when we were up there, so we couldn't stay outside for too long, but the views are wonderful. The colourful rooftops of the buildings and houses below are impressive and unusual, and with the snow capped mountains in the background you get some fantastic photographs.Outside the church be sure to take a moment to look at the statue of Leifur Eiriksson. He was also known as Leif the Lucky and was the first European to discover America around 1,000 AD. The statue was given to Iceland by the USA to commemorate the 1,000th anniversary of the founding of Iceland's parliament. I had always thought Columbus was the first European to reach America, this statue taught me he was beaten by Leifur by 500 years. Apparently various excavations in Newfoundland prove this. The statue looks just like you imagine a Viking to be.
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