The Church at the Top of the Steps


Lonely Planet calls Hallgrimskirkja  “star of a thousand postcards”.   A white concrete Lutheran church with a soaring tower that dominates Reykjavik’s skyline, Hallgrimskirkja’s architect was Guõjón Samúelsson, who never saw it completed.  Samúelsson also designed Akyreyri’s main church. Unlike Hallgrimskirkja, Akureyrakirkja sits atop a hill looking like an impressively large angel with its wings upraised.  Both churches are landmarks worth visiting, but Ruth and I almost gave up on seeing the inside of Akureyrakirkja, which was consecrated in 1940.

For many years after settlement, Iceland was a Catholic country.  Then it became Lutheran.  Now, we were told, it’s very secular.  If Icelanders go to church, it’s usually on a major religious holiday.  Many are worried about the impact of the 150 Syrians that Iceland has agreed to take in.   There have been few Muslims in Iceland, until now.

We got lucky.  On Sunday morning as we were leaving Akureyri, Ruth & I stopped one final time and a woman getting ready for an evening service got a key and let us in.  It was worth the wait.  Another  woman was practicing the organ for the single morning service at 11.   The church has a German organ with 3,300 pipes and an Icelandic choir organ.

Because Iceland is a fishing nation, there’s a ship suspended from the church’s ceiling.  This is an old Nordic tradition for the protection of loved ones at sea.  If you look closely, you can see it on the right side of the photo above.  One of the church’s windows is from England’s Coventry Cathedral, which was bombed early in World War II by the German Luftwaffe.  I’m not sure which one because one source said it was in the chancel and the brochure the lady with the key gave me said it was in the choir.  When I wanted to know, there was no one to ask.

If you’re in Akureyri during the summer, you have a better chance of seeing Akureyrakirkja because it admits visitors most days.  Lonely Planet says to check the board outside for opening times.



About roadsrus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roadsrus

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