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The Historical Laugarbrekka on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir

The Historical Laugarbrekka on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir

The statue of Guðríður at Laugarbrekka Snæfellsnes

Laugarbrekka is a well-known stop on the south side of the Snæfellsnes peninsula in West-Iceland as here the half-troll half-man and Protector of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, Bárður Snæfellsás, settled and built his farm.

Bárður discovered a pond close by, i.e. an explosive crater with a lake inside. He took a bath in the pond and liked it - it was so close to his farm that he used it as his bath, very convenient :) Since then it has been called Bárðarlaug pool

Opening photo: a statue of Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir
The statue of Guðríður at Laugarbrekka Snæfellsnes

By the statue of Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir and Snorri her son

Bárður lived at Laugarbrekka until he disappeared into Snæfellsjökull glacier after the incident at Rauðfeldsgjá, which I told you about in my travel-blog about Bárður.

Sigmundur Ketilsson, who had arrived in Iceland with Bárður, then lived at Laugarbrekka.

The homicidal Axlar-Björn, Iceland's only serial killer, was also executed at Laugarbrekka as this was the meeting place for the local assembly.  

Laugarbrekka and Snæfellsjökull glacier

What I am going to tell you about in this travel-blog is the extraordinary woman, Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir (980-1050), who was born in 980 here at Laugarbrekka at Hellnar. In her lifetime she went on 8 sea-voyages and travelled twice over the whole of Europe! She is believed to have been the most widely travelled woman of the Middle Ages.

There is only a very short drive down to a picnic area by a statue of Guðríður and her son aboard a Viking ship. The statue refers to Guðríður being the first Caucasian woman to bear a child, Snorri, in North-America.

This small statue is a casting of a bigger statue made by Ásmundur Sveinsson, one of Iceland's best-known sculptors, and was unveiled by the President of Iceland in the year 2000.  

The statue of Guðríður at Laugarbrekka Snæfellsnes

The original statue, which was made back in 1938 for the 1939 World Fair in New York, is the first statue made of a known Icelandic woman. It is called Fyrsta hvíta móðirin í Ameríku - the first European Mother in America. Here Guðríður is depicted as a strong, adventurous woman, which she for sure was. 

Guðríður was the great-granddaughter of the settler Sigmundur Ketilsson and the daughter of Chieftain Þorbjörn Vífilsson and Hallveig Einarsdóttir at Laugarbrekka. Guðríður travelled in the year 1000 from Iceland to Greenland with her parents, where Eiríkur rauði - Erik the Red had settled.

The information sign by Laugarbrekka in Snæfellsnes

The information sign by Laugarbrekka

She married three times and her first husband was Þórir austmaður, who died in Greenland. On his way back to Greenland from Vínland, Leifur heppni rescued Þórir austmaður and Guðrún from a reef and took them to Greenland (15 men all in all he rescued).

Her second husband was Þorsteinn, the son of Erik the Red and the brother of Leif the Lucky.

You can read about Leifur heppni - Leif the Lucky, and Erik the Red in my travel-blog about Eiríksstaðir, Leif the Lucky was the one who discovered America (New World) in the year 1000.

The statue of Þorfinnur karlsefni in Reykjavík

A statue of Þorfinnur karlsefni in Reykjavík 

From Greenland Guðríður and Þorsteinn sailed to North-America with a group of Icelanders/Greenlanders, or whatever they called themselves back then. Their story is told in two of our Sagas - Grænlendingasaga - the Saga of the Greenlanders and Eiríks saga rauða - the Saga of Erik the Red, but these two sagas are referred to as the Vínland Sagas.

These 2 Sagas tell a different story, but Grænlendingasaga tells us that Þorsteinn fell ill and died after they had got lost searching for Vínland. They arrived in Lýsufjörður in Greenland, where they stayed with Þorsteinn svarti. Þorsteinn's crew and Þorsteinn svarti's wife caught contagious flu and many of them died. 

The statue of Þorfinnur karlsefni in Reykjavík

Þorfinnur karlsefni's sword

Guðríður went back to Greenland and married her third husband, Þorfinnur karlsefni.

You will find Þorfinnur's statue in front of Hrafnista and Laugarásbíó cinema in Reykjavík. With him, she sailed to America where their son, Snorri, was born, the first Caucasian child born in America.

They returned to Greenland after not getting along with the natives, and from there they sailed to Norway and finally settled in Iceland, at the historical Glaumbær in Skagafjörður up north, where you can see a beautiful turf house, which is now a museum. 

The statue of Guðríður at Glaumbær North-Iceland

There is another replica of the original statue of Guðríður and her son at Glaumbær

After the death of Þorfinnur karlsefni, her third husband, and the marriage of her son, Snorri, Guðríður travelled to Europe on a pilgrimage and walked to the Vatican in Rome. Later she returned to Iceland and lived as a nun at Glaumbær, where her son, Snorri lived. He had built a church at Glaumbær.

She was the most widely-travelled woman in Iceland from the 10th century until the 20th century and it is believed that she was only around fifty by now. What an adventurous life this extraordinary Icelandic woman lived!

The information sign at Laugarbrekka Snæfellsnes

You can see how widely Guðríður travelled in the map above, which you can find by the parking lot at Laugarbrekka. 

Guðríður is my ancestress 26 generations back.

At Laugarbrekka there was a farm and a church until 1881. Further down you will find the remains of the farm and the church. That area is declared as protected and you will see a yellow sign with Fornleifar written on it, meaning protected antiquities.

The Historical Laugarbrekka on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir

To visit this area you can rent a car in Reykjavík and drive up there in a couple of hours. 

If you want to read up on  the Magical Snæfellsnes Peninsula then I have written an I-V part travel-blog series about what there is to see and do on the peninsula.

The Magical Snæfellsnes peninsula - part I

The Magical Snæfellsnes peninsula - part II

The Magical Snæfellsnes peninsula - part III

The Magical Snæfellsnes peninsula - part IV

The Magical Snæfellsnes peninsula - part V

The historical Laugarbrekka is located on the south side of the Snæfellsnes peninsula  by the road Útnesvegur number 574. 

Have a lovely time on the Snæfellsnes peninsula :)