After the death of Þorlákur Þórhallsson, Bishop of Skálholt, in 1193, stories of miracles that occurred in his diocese were collected as part of efforts to canonise him. The first of three volumes containing such accounts describes 46 occurrences, including a blind sheep gaining sight, a lost ship that was found, and a man saved from drowning, all thanks to Þorlákur’s holiness (and God’s omnipotence).
The thirty-third story tells of a bull that escaped certain death at Oddi, a prominent chieftain’s seat in South Iceland. When a cave at the Oddi farmstead collapsed on 12 bulls, crushing 11 of them instantly, it spared the twelfth, although trapped under several metres of rock. After a long day of digging, the bull was freed, walking off completely unharmed. The account is the oldest mention of a manmade cave in Iceland.
More than 800 years later, that bull drew archaeologist Kristborg Þórsdóttir to Oddi. She was curious about the story of the so-called “bull cave” and wanted to see if she could find it. What she uncovered was another miracle of sorts: the oldest manmade cave in Iceland that remains fully intact.