I have recently written a travel-blog on the Laufás turf houses in Eyjafjörður in North-Iceland. Since then I have been asked if I could show photos from the inside of turf houses in Iceland. I sure can as another beautiful turf house is to be found in North-Iceland, called Grenjaðarstaður turf house.
The turf houses in Iceland are in my opinion so typical for Iceland. I love visiting them and always seek them out on my travels in my country. Grenjaðarstaður turf house is located in North-Iceland, between Mývatn and Húsavík - the Whale Watching capital of Iceland.
Grenjaðarstaður turf house
I visit Grenjaðarstaður every year and you will see why if you read a little bit further on in my travel-blog :)
There was a homestead here at Grenjaðarstaður from the early settlement of Iceland over a thousand years ago. Grenjaður Hrappsson settled this area and lived at Grenjaðarstaður, which is named after him.
The present turf house dates back to the 19th century, but the oldest parts of it date back to 1865. The majestic turf house at Grenjaðarstaður was the largest manor in this county, 775 sq.m!
This building material, turf or sod, was used as it was cheap and it insulated the houses and kept the cold out. The outwalls of Grenjaðarstaður are made from doubly stacked lava, of which there is plenty in this area, and no turf is used in the outwalls of this turf house. Lava was the building material in the areas of Iceland, where there is volcanic activity.
If you visit more turf houses in Iceland you will see that they are not all built in the same way. In other parts of Iceland where turf was easily available, turf was used for the walls of the turf houses. Thus the turf houses don't all look the same in Iceland.
When Rev. Benedikt Kristjánsson (1840-1915), my great-great-grandfather, became a minister at Grenjaðarstaður in 1876 he restored the houses completely, apart from the door to the east and the northern parlour. Almost 30 people were living in this huge turf house at this time. He had a big family, domestics and many old people were living at Grenjaðarstaður as well.
Benedikt Kristjánsson was the minister at Grenjaðarstaður from 1876-1907. When you visit Grenjaðarstaður turf house you will see the photos or my great-great-grandparents hanging on the wall in the first room you enter to the left.
My great-great-grandfather Benedikt
There the photo of Rev. Benedikt is mounted on the wall between his two wives; Regína on his left-hand side, and his second wife, Ásta on his right-hand side.
Benedikt's wife, Regína Magdalena Sívertsen (1847-1884), my great-great-grandmother, is buried in the graveyard by the church at Grenjaðarstaður along with 4 of her small children and her mother-in-law.
I have been told that Regína died of a broken heart after the loss of 4 of her small children to measles. I am named after her and when I travel in this area I always go visit her grave and tell her the latest news of her descendants in the SW-corner of Iceland.
My great-great-grandmother Regína Magdalena
Her grave is located 454 km away from my home in Reykjavík, so it is a bit far visiting her grave, but seeing that my husband's family owns a summer cottage at Mývatn, then we visit this area every year. And in 2018 I was able to visit Grenjaðarstaður 3 times.
In the photo below I am wearing the national costume upphlutur, which I was wearing for the 140th anniversary of the Þverá church in Laxárdalur in the vicinity of Grenjaðarstaður. Þverá church was an Annex church from Grenjaðarstaður and Rev. Benedikt Kristjánsson consecrated this church 140 years ago.
At Þverá you will also find another beautiful turf house - it is closed to visitors, but you can drive into the valley in the summertime and see what it looks like from the outside.
By my great-great-grandmother's grave
In the graveyard next to Regína's grave you will find a gravestone with runes from the 15th century.
On it is written: "Hér hvílir Sigríð Hrafnsdótter kvinna Bjarnar bónda Sæmundssonar. Guð fríðe hennar sál til góðrar vonar. Hver er letrið les, bið fyrir blíðre sál og synge signað vers" - translated into English: "Here rests Sigríð Hrafnsdóttir, the wife of Bjarni Sæmundsson. May God rest her soul. Whoever reads this, please say a prayer for her gentle soul and say a holy hymn".
In 1915 there were 15 people living at Grenjaðarstaður according to the census. Four ministers lived at the manor and there were people living here until 1948. The National Museum took over the manor, restored it from 1955-1958 in the liking of its original state and opened up a district museum at Grenjaðarstaður.
The rooms are kept pretty much like they were when people used to live at Grenjaðarstaður. For me, it is a delight visiting this old manor seeing how my great-great-grandparents lived.
The rooms are full of old items from the district. When Grenjaðarstaður was turned into a museum in 1958 the locals from this district donated over thousand objects to the museum. I especially like the kitchen, seeing all these old lovely plates and old kitchen utensils.
Visiting the museum at Grenjaðarstaður gives great insight into the ways people lived in the 19th century in North-Iceland, even though this mansion was much larger than the usual turf houses.
The floors of Grenjaðarstaður are wooden, but one room has got beaten dirt floors. I have seen these dirt floors in other turf houses and they are very comfortable to walk on.
Grenjaðarstaður turf house is owned by the National Museum of Iceland and run by the district-museum of this area. It is open daily from 1st of June - 31st of August from 10-18.
Opposite Grenjaðarstaður in Aðaldalur you will find a lovely preserved church, Grenjaðarstaðakirkja. The current church was erected in 1865 by Rev. Magnús Jónsson, but earlier there were Catholic turf churches here dedicated to Bishop Martein from Tours in France.
The altarpiece in Grenjaðarstaðarkirkja church, which was donated by a minister of the church, dates back to 1865. Belonging to the church is also a chalice from 1870 and two old copper candlesticks.
The year 1797 is painted on the pulpit and the initials of Tómas Skúlason, who was the minister of the church back in 1785-1808.
The church bells in the bell canopy in front of the church are also old by Icelandic standard, dating back to 1663 (the bigger one) and 1740 (the smaller one).
At the lychgate of Grenjaðarstaðakirkja church
Benedikt's and Regína's son and my great-grandfather, Bjarni Benediktsson (1877-1964), married my great-grandmother, Þórdís Ásgeirsdóttir (1889-1965) from West-Iceland, and moved to nearby Húsavík, where they had 15 children, including my grandmother. Which makes me 1/4 Húsvíkingur as the locals of Húsavík are called.
My husband took some photos of me wearing the national costume, as we both thought that it would be nice for my travel-blog. It is not often that I get the opportunity to dress up in upphlutur so why not make the most of it.
This is the national costume of Björg, the nanny of my great-grandparent's children and I am very grateful that my extended family trusted me with it, and wear it with pride :)
Húsavíkurkirkja church is right next to Bjarnahús
Bjarni and Þórdís built and lived in Bjarnahús, the house next to the beautiful church Húsavíkurkirkja, which is the landmark of Húsavík. Bjarnahús is now the congregation hall for the church and on the wall, you will see paintings of my great-grandparents. Þórdís, my great-grandmother is wearing the national costume peysuföt.
I will be writing a travel-blog on Húsavík soon - the Whale Watching Capital in Iceland. Both these places, Grenjaðarstaður and Húsavík are very close to my heart, so this travel-blog has turned into a blog about my ancestry.
But by now I have written 250 travel-blogs on different locations in Iceland so maybe it is fitting to dedicate a couple of my travel-blogs to my ancestors who lived in the places I am showing you, and I hope that you, who read my travel-blog appreciate it.
Don't miss visiting a turf house while in Iceland. I am so fond of them that I seek them out on my travels. I have added travel-blogs on all the turf houses in Iceland now.
The last link in my list of turf houses in Iceland is a very long travel-blog on all the turf houses I have visited in Iceland:
Laufás turf house in North-Iceland
Þverá turf house in North-Iceland
Glaumbær turf house in North-Iceland
Bustarfell turf house in East-Iceland
Sænautasel turf house in East-Iceland
Keldur turf house in South-Iceland
Tyrfingsstaðir Turf House in North-Iceland
Grenjaðarstaður is located at 65° 49,252'N, 17° 21,057'W.
You can rent a car in Reykjavík and drive up north on your own to visit Grenjaðarstaður and Húsavík.
Have a lovely time at Grenjaðarstaður :)