50 Years Since First Icelandic Manuscripts Were Returned from Denmark Skip to content

50 Years Since First Icelandic Manuscripts Were Returned from Denmark

By Yelena

Hús íslenskunnar
Photo: Stjórnarráðið.

Today marks 50 years since the repatriation of two of Iceland’s most important medieval manuscripts. The Codex Regius of the Poetic Edda (Konungsbók Eddukvæða) and the Codex Flateyensis (Flateyjarbók) were returned to Iceland from Denmark on this day in 1971, a remarkable and symbolic event in Iceland’s history. Now a state-of-the-art building is under construction in Reykjavík that will be a new home for Iceland’s most valuable manuscripts. President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and Minister of Education and Culture Lilja Alfreðsdóttir will lay the cornerstone of the building today, which will be named the House of Icelandic Studies, in honour of the momentous anniversary.

Most Remarkable of Manuscripts

The Codex Regius of the Poetic Edda is widely regarded as the most remarkable of all old Icelandic manuscripts. It is the sole source for most of the poems it contains, many of which are important sources for the worldview and religious beliefs of pre-Christian Scandinavians. The codex was discovered in 1643 and sent as a gift to King Frederick III of Denmark in 1662. It was kept in the Royal Library in Copenhagen until 1971, when it was brought back to Reykjavík by ship. It was accompanied by the Flateyjarbók, the largest medieval Icelandic manuscript, containing mostly sagas of the Norse kings as well as accounts relating to the Vinland colony, the Orkney Islands and the Faroe Islands.

Read More: Medieval Icelandic Manuscripts Soon Housed in New Facility

“It is a pleasure to commemorate this milestone in light of the fact that now the wheels are turning, the construction of the House of Icelandic Studies is going faster than hoped for and we are considering increased collaboration with Denmark on the future of Árni Magnússon’s manuscript collection. We all have a shared duty to preserve, research, and distribute these national treasures to new generations,” stated Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, Minister of Education and Culture.

The House of Icelandic Studies is expected to reach completion on August 1, 2022. Below is a video of the construction process so far.

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