Medieval Cathedral Reconstructed in Iceland? Skip to content

Medieval Cathedral Reconstructed in Iceland?

Guðjón Arngrímsson, information officer at Icelandair, presented ideas at the Church Convention yesterday on reconstructing the large wooden cathedral which was built at the ancient bishopric Skálholt, south Iceland, in the Middle Ages.


The current church at Skálholt. To the left is the half-finished Þorláksbúð.

The idea is that tourism operators and the National Church of Iceland collaborate on the project, jointly develop cultural tourism at Skálholt and run the cathedral as an independent culture and exhibition center, Fréttablaðið reports.

Kristján Valur Ingólfsson, ordination bishop at Skálholt, told Morgunblaðið that he favors the idea. He added that he is not concerned about the project causing similar controversy as the current reconstruction of Þorláksbúð, an ancient turf house.

The project has been stopped as the state-run the National Architectural Heritage Board decided to place the current church at Skálholt, the local school and the closest surroundings under preservation on the grounds that Þorláksbúð is too close to the church.


Þorláksbúð. Photos by ESA.

The association responsible for the reconstruction, Þorláksbúðarfélagið, held a session of prayer in the half-finished turf house yesterday at the request of farmers in the local rural district Biskupstungur.

“It was a very gratifying moment but at the same time serious,” commented former MP Bjarni Harðarson to Morgunblaðið, referring to the halting of construction and the fact that the entire staff at Skálholt has been laid off.

The medieval Skálholt cathedral, which was 50 meters long, 12 meters wide and 14 meters high, is considered to be unique in European architectural history and was the largest timber church in the Nordic countries at the time.

The construction of cathedrals at Skálholt and Hólar, the country’s other ancient bishopric, in the Middle Ages is considered a unique cultural achievement, according to a report on the project.

Guðjón stated that the project would be financed on business-related grounds and should neither come from the church’s nor the state’s funds, whereas the arrangement regarding ownership and operation would be decided at a later stage.

The estimated initial cost is ISK 530 million (USD 4.5 million, EUR 3.3 million). It is assumed that the price of entry will eventually cover these expenses.


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