Iceland’s tallest and largest church is also its most photographed site. Named after 17th-century hymn writer and church scholar Reverend Hallgrímur Pétursson, the infamous Hallgrímskirkja Church was designated to begin construction in 1945 and was finished in 1986, taking more than 40 years to complete.

The church was designed by one of Iceland’s most famous architects, Guðjón Samúelsson, who is said to have sought inspiration for his modern design from natural Icelandic elements including the basalt lava flows and waterfalls. The shape of the futuristic structure is a cross between a glacier and a rocket ship.

Visible from almost any point in the capital city of Reykjavík, Hallgrímskirkja Church sits at the top of a hill above the central art and design shopping street in the capital. The iconic building is more than 22-stories in height, and a visit to the top rewards sightseers with priceless views of Reykjavík.

The church also features an oversized pipe organ designed and constructed by a famous German organ builder. The organ weighs more than 25 tons and is more than 4 stories in height.

Sitting in front of the iconic church is a statue of Icelandic Viking Leif Eiriksson. He was the first European to set foot on the North American continent around A.D. 1000. Historians believe that Eiriksson found America 500 years before Christopher Columbus. Archeological findings also suggest that he settled there for some time. The statue was a gift from the United States in 1930.

Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran church, as are most churches in Iceland, with services held each Sunday. The wonderful acoustics and the enormous pipe organ make it a perfect venue for classical music concerts. It also serves as a focal meeting point for many cultural and community events, such as the annual gathering for watching the fireworks on New Year’s Eve. On this night, thousands of local people set off dozens of fireworks in an unbelievably dazzling show.

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Kelly Wise Valdes
Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.