Iceland is known for its verdant landscape and stunning views. It’s also home to a variety of unique and impressive buildings, including the Grafarkirkja turf church, which is located in the Hofsós village.
Grafarkirkja is the country’s oldest turf church. It’s 6.25 meters long and 3.20 meters wide. Despite its small size, it can still seat around 30 people.
Inside the church, visitors will see a series of pews and an altar. Outside, it’s surrounded by lush grass, greenery, and a row of mountains. It takes about five minutes to walk up the path from the parking lot to the church, making it an accessible attraction for most tourists.
The construction of turf churches dates back to the early days of Christianity in Iceland (approximately 1240). Because the country lacked trees, early settlers utilized different building materials, including turf. They soon found that turf was highly durable, provided insulation, and protected churchgoers from harsh weather.
A famous wood carver, Guðmundur Guðmundsson, has been credited with rebuilding Grafarkirkja in the 17th century. He added a variety of intricate carvings to give it a unique appearance and set it apart from other turf structures.
Despite the initial intention behind it, Grafarkirkja hasn’t always been revered as a Christian landmark.
In 1775, Grafarkirkja was deconsecrated by the King of Denmark. Farmers then used it as a tool shed.
The National Museum of Iceland didn’t reclaim possession of the church until the 1950s. Then, it was restored using new turf and timber. It underwent additional restoration in 2011.
Currently, Grafarkirkja is one of six remaining turf churches in Iceland. It is undergoing significant preservation efforts to ensure it remains for years to come.
During this preservation process, the church is closed to the public. However, tourists can still admire its exterior.