The Hallgrimskirkja is pretty hard to miss when out strolling around Reykjavik. Even without a map its pretty damn easy to navigate you way to this Lutheran (Church of Iceland) parish church. Standing tall above the moderately small sized business and residential building of the large town, the church is without doubt the focal point.
The church is named after Reverend Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614-1674), Iceland’s foremost hymn writer. At 74 metres tall it is the largest church in Iceland, taking a whopping 38 years to build – first started at the end of WWII in 1945, and completed in 1986. Architect Guðjón Samúelsson is said to have been inspired by the Icelandic landscape whilst designing the Hallgrimskirkja. The columns are the front of the church are said to be Samúelsson’s interpretation of hexagonal basalt formed by cooling lava. The design is certainly distinctive, but basalt formed by cooling lava wasnt my first guess inspiration wise. Either way, the design is certainly bold.
Standing in front of the Hallgrimskirkja you’ll also do well to miss the Iceland-born Leifur Eiriksson, also know as ‘Leif the Lucky’. Leifur is said to be the first European to discover America around 1,000 A.D. The only problem with said discovery was that Leifur didn’t bother to text his mates or anyone for that matter about what he’d found, leaving Christopher Columbus to claim the mantle of ‘the man who discovered America’. #communicationsfail
Whilst the inside of the Hallgrimskirkja took me part way to middle earth with its high ceilings supported by rows of huge columns, but one of the most noticeable features is the rather large organ which along with looking a little bit like the head of a transformer, is made up of some 5275 pipes. Those pipes add up to mind blowing 25 tons of organ. No small feat for German organ builder Johannes Klais.
The exterior and interior of the Hallgrimskirkja are both works on art in the their own right, but alas they were not the reason we visited, they were just bonuses. The main reason for our visit to church that day was to ascend the church to its observation deck up on floor number 8. The cost of ascension you ask? I can inform you that at the time of writing, 600 ISK (£3.50ish) is what you will pay to make your way up to the observation deck via a lift, but it is a small price to pay.
The observation deck as it is known is really two decks. The first houses the clock faces and some interesting pieces of information regarding Iceland and its christian beliefs. The second is the magic part in my book. After climbing a small set of stairs, find yourself a free window and look out over the colorful beauty that is Reykjavik. A day with clear skies really lights up the multi coloured roof tops and makes for a great viewing experience. Its pretty to lose track of time up there. Whilst you wont spend all day up there, you’d be surprised at hour quickly you lose an hour.