Godafoss waterfall is said to be where Porgeir Ljosvetningagodi threw all his Norse god idols. He did this to symbolize the official conversion of the island to Christianity. Whether the legend is true or not, the conversion is clear when taking all the churches in Iceland into account.
But these are not just your everyday churches. In fact, architects and architecture fans come from far and wide to view these historic architectural marvels. And if you are one of them, read on for all the must-visit churches in Iceland.
The Black Church at Budir
The pitch-black church building is situated on the open landscape, with the mountains towering behind it. The church has a very ominous feeling, and it’s easy to think that you’ve just stepped into a horror movie set. In the wintertime, the stark contrast between the blanket of white snow over the land and the black church is striking.
To make the scene even more ominous is the fact that the Black Church is all that remains of a prosperous fishing village and port of the 19th century. It also has quite a strange origin story.
According to legend, a man was spun around in circles ‘till he was drunk, then given three arrows to shoot off. Wherever the third arrow landed would dictate where the church would be built.
This church situated in the capital city of Reykjavík is the largest church in Iceland. This impressive design by architect, Gudjon Samuelsson, is essentially an ode to the island.
The church organ's look and feel was inspired by the famous Svartifoss waterfall. You can see the hexagonal basalt columns, created by the volcanic activity, that can still be experienced in Iceland today.
Even the name, Hallgrimskirkja, comes from a famous 17th-century poet and author on the island, Hallgrimur Petursson. He is credited for the Passion hymns. It took 41 years to build this incredible structure, and today it is a favorite spot for visitors.
Not only can you stare in awe at the incredible design, but you can take an elevator to the top and stare in awe at the breathtaking view.
This famous church in Iceland is not only one you and visit, but you can actually spend the night! It is quite a unique little church with a white exterior and bright blue door, windows, and roof. It was built in 1925, so it still has that typical old-timey countryside look and feel.
So, if you ever find yourself in the east of Iceland in Stodvarfjördur, and wonder what it feels like to sleep in one of the churches in Iceland. Your private accommodation booking at Kirkjubaer is just one click away.
Heimaey Stave Church
Heimaey Stave Church is an incredibly interesting church in terms of design. In addition, it’s also situated on one of the most interesting parts of Iceland; Heimaey Island in the Westman Islands.
The church reminds one of the Statue of Liberty in the sense that this too was a gift to the country and the reason why the building design is so unique.
To celebrate the island’s 1000th anniversary of its Christian conversion, Norway gifted the church to Iceland. The striking black color with its texturized roof, almost like lizard scales, is something rarely found outside of Norway. This makes it a definite must-visit spot on your churches in Iceland itinerary.
This is yet another uniquely colorful Icelandic famous church with its white exterior, green roof, and brown door and windows. Although not gifted by the Norwegians, it is made from Norwegian wood. The Schweitzer design style reminds one of the almost gothic churches of old. It was consecrated in 1907 and is open to the public if you want to take a peek inside.
What makes this visit even more special is that Husavikurkirkja is situated by the harbor in the town of Husavik (the whale capital of Iceland). If you visit the church during the whaling season (April to September), you’re almost guaranteed to see one of these giants of the ocean if you have a good eye.
This black turf church was designed by Jon Samsonarson who was an architect but was more famous for being a politician. What makes this church so interesting is that this church has been doing the rounds and has actually moved around the island quite a bit.
Originally, Arbæjarkirkja was built in Skagafjördur. As with many things in life, it was later replaced by a “newer model” and the church was moved to Arbær. Later it was restored to its former glory in Reykjavík and became a part of the Arbærsafn museum in 1960.
Akureyri is the island’s second-largest city, and this church is definitely one of the city’s most notorious landmarks and a famous church in Iceland.
The church was designed by Gudjon Samuelsson. It’s fascinating to note the similarities between Akureyrarkirkja and Hallgrimskirkja. What makes this church even more interesting is the wonderfully weird true story behind its stained-glass windows.
During World War II, the stained-glass window panes were removed from Coventry Cathedral in the West Midlands of England. This was out of fear that bombings might damage or even completely shatter these functional pieces of art.
Subsequently, they completely disappeared and no one could find them. Many years later, windows were purchased for Akureyrarkirkja only to discover that they are the missing window panes!
The Churches in Iceland: Must-see Items on Your Itinerary
Whether you’re looking for the most famous church in Iceland or the largest church in Iceland, these structures are simply incredible to see. As an added benefit, they are all free (except if you want to sleep over at Kirkjubaer, of course).
Hallgrimskirkja is only a small walk away when in the capital city. By renting a car in Reykjavík, you can either include these sites on your road trip itinerary or make day outings out of them. Either way, the churches in Iceland are bound to be a highlight of your trip.