Hólavallagarður Cemetery Celebrates 180 Years

Reykjavík’s venerable Hólavallagarður cemetery is 180 years old this year, RÚV reports. Hólavallagarður was consecrated in 1838 and served as the capital’s principal cemetery for almost a century.

“The cemetery is very unique in Europe because it has never been reorganized or dug under,” explained Hólavallagarður caretaker Heimir Janusarson. “We have the first grave, we have the cemetery’s developmental history. You can read its planning history. You can read its vegetation history – when a [new species of] tree arrived in the country – because they were always planted in the cemetery first [because it was an] enclosed area and there [were] no sheep or horses to eat them.”

The cemetery is, indeed, almost a little arboretum in the center of Reykjavík, even though according to the cemetery profile on kirkjugardur.is “[n]o trees were planted in the cemetery…until after 1900; moreover, there was not much planting until between the World Wars.” The main species include birch, two types of rowan, spruce and poplar as well as larch, members of the willow genus, and various other kinds of bushes. Heimir also points out that Hólavallagarður is rich with mushrooms and moss, and even home to snails that can’t be found anywhere else in Iceland.

Hólavallagarður is the final resting place for numerous important and luminary figures in Icelandic history, not least Iceland’s independence hero Jón Sigurðsson (1811-1879), whose birthday (June 17) was selected as the country’s National Day, as well as one of Iceland’s most preeminent painters, Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval (1885-1972). Guðrún Oddsdóttir, the first person to be buried in Hólavallagarður, is said to be the cemetery’s guardian spirit.

All of the available plots were allocated by 1932 and so today, burials only take place there in reserved plots, although it is increasingly common for urns to be buried in previously used graves with the permission of the license holder. In this way, families may continue to be buried in their ancestral plot.

You can read more about Hólavallagarður (in English) on kirkjugardar.is, including a translated excerpt of a book that art historian Björn Th. Björnsson wrote about it to commemorate its 150th anniversary in 1988.

Pirate MPs Condemn Spanish Response to Catalan Independence Vote

iceland parliament

Six Pirate Party MPs are calling for Alþingi to publicly condemn the Spanish government’s response to the Catalan independence vote which was undertaken last year on October 1, 2017, Kjarninn reports. The proposed parliamentary resolution is not intended to be an outright declaration of support for Catalonian independence, but rather would be meant to serve as a “serious admonition to the Spanish government about ensuring people’s rights to work on behalf of voters without putting themselves in danger of being deprived of their freedom.”

The Catalan parliament held an independence referendum on October 1, 2017, in spite of what the Pirate-sponsored proposal terms the “repeated attempts by the Spanish government, often violent, to prevent its administration.” The result of the vote, continues the proposal, “was, however, clear, because 92% of those who cast votes answered yes to the question that was put before voters: ‘Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?’ The Spanish Constitutional Court annulled the regional government’s declaration of independence on November 8, 2017 on the grounds that it had violated the constitution of the country and was, therefore, null and void.”

“Since the vote went forward, arrest warrants have been issued for numerous politicians in Catalonia, at least nine of whom have been imprisoned in Spain for months without being charged,” continues the proposal. “Among these is the former president of the of Catalan parliament. Still others are in exile and at risk of being arrested if they return to their homes.”

The proposal was introduced by Pirate MPs Álfheiður Eymarsdóttir, Björn Leví Gunnarsson, Halldóra Mogensen, Helgi Hrafn Gunnarsson, Jón Þór Ólafsson and Þórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir.

Two Hundred Take Part in UN Women’s Candle Light March

The annual UN Women’s Candle Light March took place in downtown Reykjavík on Sunday, RÚV reports. Two hundred people took part in the march, which is held in observance of the Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and marks the start of “16 days of activism, a global campaign to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.”

This year’s march was led by Sigrún Sif Jóelsdóttir, one of the participants in the “Gender-Based Violence is Closer Than You Think” video campaign which UN Women Iceland debuted earlier this year, and was dedicated to all victims of gender-based violence. “…[T]his year, the emphasis is on listening to the voices of victims,” said Arna Grímsdóttir, director of UN Women in Iceland. “Listening and being patient with them. Believing them and giving them room to breathe.”