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The capital of Iceland

Skálholt was the capital of Iceland for about 750 years, the center of the church and one of the most densely populated places in the country. The history of the place is long and intertwined with the history of Christianity in Iceland.


The first bishop of Iceland, Ísleifur Gissurarson sat in Skálholt. His son Gissur took over the bishopric after his father, built a cathedral on the spot and gave the land to the church with the words that there should be a church in Skálholt as long as Christianity remained in the country.


In the Middle Ages, Skálholtsstaður grew greatly in spiritual and secular terms and soon became one of the most populated places in the country. There was a school and for a time a print shop on the site. There was a lot of farm work in Skálholt and all the housing options accordingly.


In 1630, the whole place burned down and many cultural and historical values were lost. All the local buildings, except the cathedral, collapsed in the 1784 earthquake and the bishop's chair was moved to Reykjavík as a result. In 1802, Brynjólfskirkja was demolished and a smaller church was built in its place. In the middle of the 20th century, the restoration of Skálholtstaðar began.

Restoration of Skálholtstaðar in the 20th century
After the bishop's seat moved from Skálholt, Skálholt became a regular church-place in the countryside. Due to the importance of the place in the history of the nation, in the early 20th century there were discussions about its restoration. It can be said that the first step of the restoration was taken with Alþingi's decision on the office of consecration bishop in the Skálholt diocese in 1909.


The restoration of the place was often discussed in Alþingi and in the synod after it was founded. Prestafélag Suðurland and Skálholtsfélagið, which was founded under the leadership of dr. Sigurbjörns Einarsson (1911-2008) in 1948, also lobbied for the restoration of the place. The government organized a festive celebration in Skálholt in cooperation with the church in 1956 when 900 years had passed since the consecration of the first bishop. Finally Alþingi agreed to build a new cathedral in Skálholt.


There was a strong consensus in Althingi and within the church regarding the restoration of Skálholt. Two things woke people up. On the one hand, there were those who wanted the restoration to strengthen the position of the church among the people. However, there were those who saw the restoration as part of restoring the national consciousness of Icelanders.

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