Hallgrimskirkja, or Hallgrimur’s church, is the tallest building in Reykjavik and the largest church in Iceland, designed to resemble the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s landscape or an erupting volcano, depending on which tourist guide you read. Whatever the architect’s vision, it certainly is a distinctive building that you can see from practically everywhere in the City – and makes a great compass point if you need one.
The building was begun in 1949 but it wasn’t actually finished until 1986 and was named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrimur Petursson.
The crypt was consecrated in 1948, the steeple and wings were completed in 1974, and the nave was consecrated in 1986.
The inside is pretty plain but it does have a large pipe organ with 5,275 pipes that is 15 metres tall and weighs 2.5 tonnes.
It’s also possible to go up in the lift to the viewing deck at the top of the building (for a small fee), which naturally I did. The windows don’t have glass in them, just bars across them at that level, so I was certainly feeling the force of the wind at that height! But it does give you the perfect opportunity to see the layout of the city.
In front of the church is a statue of Leif Eriksson, a gift from the United States…
…representing the man who any Icelander will be eager to tell you was the first person to discover America.
It’s a very impressive building and also looks beautiful lit up at night, though I never happened to have my camera handy to take a pic at night. It’s definitely well worth a visit if you’re in the city and one of the highlights of the trip for me.