The holy Strandarkirkja Church in South Iceland - Iceland's Miracle Church
In this travel-blog I am going to show you the lovely Strandarkirkja church - Iceland's miracle church.
Strandarkirkja is a well-known votive church and there are many cases of miraculous answers to prayers connected to this church.
Many people have made a pledge to Strandarkirkja church - I included - and once it was one of the richest churches in my country with votive offerings coming in from people from all over Iceland.
Top photo: Strandarkirkja church
Inside Strandarkirkja church
And not only Icelanders as word got out and now it gets pledges and votive offerings from abroad as well, especially from the Northern countries.
The state religion in Iceland is Lutheran, so it is not a tradition to give money to churches for answered prayers, but Strandarkirkja church is an exception to that rule, as we really believe in the powers of this church to answer our prayers.
My mother told me that her grandmother, Elín Thomsen in Reykjavík, got prayer answers from Strandarkirkja. She doesn't remember the nature of her pledges, but she remembers that her grandmother went several times to the minister to pay her pledge.
Bjarni Sivertsen as depicted in his house in Hafnarfjörður, which is now a museum
I think that many people pray for recovery from illnesses and hardship and sailors pray for salvation when in peril. But there are many other prayer answers, lifting of fog f.ex. and prayers regarding the matters of the heart.
One of my ancestors 7 generations back, Bjarni Sívertsen riddari (1763-1833), was born at Nes in Selvogur. He was a poor farmer's son.
He made a pledge in 1778 that he would donate a beautiful confessional to Strandarkirkja church were he to be successful in life.
My relative and I in Sívertsenhús, fooling about with our ancestor Bjarni - it is not allowed to cross the rope though, so shame on us ;)
Bjarni later (1783) married my ancestress Rannveig Filippusdóttir, who was 19 years older than he was. She was a wealthy widow and together they were very successful in life.
Bjarni Sívertsen kept his promise and the church got the confessional in 1794. I don't know why he gave a confessional though, as Strandarkirkja is a Lutheran church. The reformation from Catholicism to Lutheranism in Iceland took place back in 1540-1550.
But back when the church was catholic the patron saints of the church were the Virgin Mary and St. Thomas of Canterbury.
Bjarni is often referred to as the Father of Hafnarfjörður town. His house is the oldest house in Hafnarfjörður and belongs to Byggðasafn Hafnarfjarðar - the Hafnarfjörður museum.
A visit in 2013 to Strandarkirkja with relatives and the curator of the Hafnarfjörður museum
I made a pledge to Strandarkirkja church back in the summer of 2012.
I had just broken up with my ex-partner of many years and I went to Strandarkirkja church with my mother and made a pledge to the church to find me a good husband.
Sure enough, my prayers were answered in July 2013 and I had to go downtown to Biskupsstofa - the Bishop's Office and pay up. We have been married for 8 years now (2022).
My Jón Víðis inside Strandarkirkja church - he is a magician :)
There is a legend connected to Strandarkirkja, which explains why it became a votive church. A miraculous event took place when an angel saved the lives of sailors.
The story goes that a ship carrying wood was caught in a big storm, and in darkness. It was almost sure death for the sailors as in this area the landing places are difficult with many reefs.
In despair, they knelt in prayer and prayed to Got to save them. They pledged to build a church with the wood they were carrying, on the spot they would land were they to reach land safely.
A painting in Strandarkirkja church of the miraculous event
A light being - an angel - suddenly appeared in front of them by the prow - some stories say that they saw a light onshore. They followed the bright light through the rough surf and landed safely in a cove on a sandy beach.
The sailors, grateful for the rescue kept their promise and built a wooden church on the site - Strandarkirkja they named it.
Where they came ashore has from that time been called Engilvík or Engilsvík; Angel's Inlet.
This might have happened back in the 12th century or even earlier and since then miracles have happened, which were accredited to Strandarkirkja.
A beautiful painting in Strandarkirkja church
It is quite often mentioned in the Icelandic Sagas that the settlers and their descendants went to Norway to buy wood for longhouses and churches. This story might have been in a Saga that is lost, but several of the Sagas might have been lost.
I was reading Heiðarvígasaga the other day, parts of which are missing, and I really felt a great loss over not ever being able to read the parts that are missing forever. I am a big fan of the Sagas and have read almost all of them.
Gissur hvíti might even have built a church here at Strönd in the 10th or 11th century, but he was sent to Iceland with church wood from the Norwegian king Ólafur Tryggvason in the year 1000.
Gissir hvíti was the one who built a church in the Westman islands as you can read about in my travel-blog: The Westman Islands of Iceland - the Settler, the Beautiful Stave Church & more interesting Things.
The beautiful angel by Guðfríður Jónsdóttir. The statue is called Landsýn and was unveiled in 1950
By the church, you will find a monument in remembrance of the salvage of the sailors.
It is a statue of an angel and was unveiled in 1950. It is called Landsýn meaning Landfall. The statue was made by Gunnfríður Jónsdóttir, who was married to the noted sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson.
Gunnfríður first made a prototype of the statue in 1940 after she had first seen Strandarkirkja church from the Selvogsheiði heath and somehow felt the loneliness of this church which stood there alone by the open sea.
The legend of the salvation was on her mind when she made this statue.
Landsýn by Gunnfríður Jónsdóttir unveiled in 1950
Landnámabók - the Book of Settlements tells us in chapter 101 that Þórir haustmyrkur settled Selvogur and Krýsuvík, but his son Heggur lived at Vogur.
There has been a church here at Strönd at least since around the year 1200, as it is mentioned in the church register by the bishop Páll Jónsson at Skálholt, and pledges to the church are mentioned in Vilchinsmáldagar in 1397. But I think that it must have been erected much earlier.
One of the most important manors in South Iceland was here at Strönd from around 1300 until the 17th century, and at one time Snorri Sturluson's nephew Dufgus Þorleifsson, lived at Strönd.
Strandarkirkja church is a timber church like the old church at Strönd in the Viking times. It was erected in 1888 and renovated and reconsecrated in 1968. It was then renovated and reconsecrated again almost 30 years later, in 1996. The ministers lived at Vogsósar until 1907.
Remember the medium Margrét from Öxnafell, who has seen the elves and hidden people of Iceland in many locations? I have told you about her in several of my travel-blogs, f.ex.:
The following is what she experienced while visiting Strandarkirkja church - I read the story in the book Skyggna konan II - Ferð að Strandarkirkju. I shortened the story a bit and recapitulate.
A painting of the miraculous event in Strandarkirkja
On the 26th of May, 1963, Margrét visited Strandarkirkja with her family and here she saw and heard some of the strangest things that have happened to her in her lifetime.
When she was visiting Strandarkirkja, she looked in the direction of the sea and saw a stranded ship. She described the ship as being neither big nor fair, but dark and it almost lay on its side. Tall and foamy waves crashed onto the ship.
On the shore, she saw men in "skinnkæði" - clothes made of hides, according to the tradition of the old days. So she seems to have tapped into the events which took place here in the olden times.
She described the men as being both young and old and all the old men had a beard. All of these men were diligently carrying wood from the seashore and piled the wood in a neat manner. There seem to have been 10-15 men.
The angel by Strandarkirkja
She then looked in the direction of the statue of the woman, a symbol of the being, who guided the men from the danger at sea towards land and life.
The statue seemed to be surrounded by a colourful veil, but the most prominent colour was blue. And it looked like the statue of the woman had a crown of geranium flowers and the dewdrops were glistening in the sun (it had been both raining and sunshine on this day).
Margrét was standing outside the Strandarkirkja church waiting, as the church was locked and her family was getting the key.
She noticed large groups of people approaching and they were both walking and on horseback. The women were smartly dressed with a mantle and the ancient headdress on their heads, but all of the men were wearing tight trousers and short cardigans.
Out of focus in Strandarkirkja - I am running out of photos of this church ;)
Then she noticed the minister and thought that he might be Eiríkur at Vogsósar, who was a well-known minister at Strandarkirkja church from 1677-1716. He is the one who exercised the ghost at Gunnuhver: Have you met the angry Ghost at Gunnuhver Mud Pool in Reykjanes in SW-Iceland?
She then witnessed a wedding take place in the church. The minister was the first to enter the church and then the young and beautiful bride and groom.
Margét described the groom as being dark-haired with a dark beard but a shaven chin. The bride had golden hair which reached her hips and covered her back. In the sunshine, it looked to Margrét as if she had golden hair. She was wearing a tall "skautfaldur".
Inside Strandarkirkja church
The bride and groom disappeared into the church behind the minister and the whole congregation followed them into the church.
She heard breathtakingly beautiful psalmody coming from the church. But as her family returned with the key they entered the church and inside the church Margét only noticed 3 women kneeling by the altar as if they were praying.
They were wearing dark clothes and bodices heavily adorned with silver - a bright light was above these women.
And Margrét heard beautiful singing coming from afar. This sight disappeared as more people from the present entered the church.
Inside Strandarkirkja church
Isn't this amazing! I would love to be able to see sights from the past as Margrét from Öxnafell in Eyjafjörður up north did.
She was a well-known medium ever since she was a young woman and many people got healed through her work.
The belief in mediums is deeply rooted in the faith of Icelanders, ever since the settlers arrived in Iceland back in around the year 874. There are many accounts in the Icelandic Sagas about mediums.
And I grew up believing in this other world, which is hidden from most people.
Beautiful Strandarkirkja church
I was also reading the book Ekki einleikið by Árni Óla, an Icelander born in 1888, the same year that Strandarkirkja church was erected. I adore his books and own 25 of his very informative books.
In my last travel-blog I showed you a story from another book by Árni Óla:
One chapter in his book - "Í Strandarkirkju", is dedicated to Strandarkirkja and his visit with a church group of elderly people from Langholtsprestakall in Reykjavík to the Reykjanes peninsula. Joining them was the minister of Langholtskirkja church, Árelíus Níelsson.
The altarpiece was painted in 1865 and is a replica of the altarpiece in Dómkirkjan cathedral in Reykjavík
This excursion took place on the 16th of July, 1963, which is coincidentally the same summer as Margrét from Öxnafell visited the church.
He was asked to guide these people and hold a speech in the church about the history of the Strandarkirkja church and this area.
The group filled the church and some of them had to stand outside as there was no room in the church. It was a lovely day and sunny weather.
Árni Óla had talked for about 12-14 minutes and was about to tell them the magical story about the origin of the Strandarkirkja church.
The angel by Strandarkirkja
He told them the story of the rescue and about the statue of the angel and then he looked outside the church window by the pulpit at the statue outside the church, which was bathed in bright sunshine.
But then the strangest thing happened. All of a sudden the surroundings changed, the church and the people disappeared and he was in the open surrounded by a large group of men and women, whom he had never seen before.
These people were talking to him and educating him about the history and the origin of the church.
Árni realized that these people were from another century, judging from their costumes.
Here I am wearing the national Icelandic costume upphlutur at Grenjaðarstaðarkirkja church in N-Iceland
And as these people were talking to him he saw images from another era in the history of the church. Each of the images seemed to be an event in the history of the church.
Then the people standing next to him disappeared to the side and an older, more knowledgeable, generation appeared. This happened several times.
One generation after another appeared he gathered from the changing costumes of these people.
In our national costume by one of our turf houses up north
Never in his life had Árni seen such ancient costumes, and he in particular thought that the costumes of the women looked strange and colourful.
More and more people appeared from ancient times and in the end, there were thousands of people.
Árni saw more and more images as if they were projected in front of him and these people who seemed to come from increasingly older times were explaining them to him.
And Árni who was listening to these people could also hear from afar his own voice speaking in the pulpit of Strandarkirkja church in front of his fellow travellers!
Viking clothes at Mink Viking Portrait :)
At the same time, he heard in the other world that it would be best to get Skafti. And Árni was certain that they were talking about Skafti law speaker Þóroddsson at Hjalli (who died in 1030)!
But then Árni heard the voice of the minister in the church, Árelíus, that it was time to wrap up the speech.
And Árni was transported into the church again and the sight from the olden times disappeared.
Árni was so disoriented when he found himself back in the church, that he, unfortunately, forgot most of the stories which had been shown to him.
Greeting the angel by Strandarkirkja
Árni asked his wife who was sitting in the church and had listened to his speech, if he had managed to hold the speech or if he had been talking gibberish, as he had no recollection of holding a speech as he had been transported to another era.
Isn't this amazing?! Árni was transported into another dimension or an era, where he saw many people from all centuries, maybe 25-30 generations, dressed in clothes from these centuries, the oldest ones some 1,000 years back!!
Too bad that he forgot so much of what they said to him, as they seem to have been telling him important facts about Strandarkirkja church and this area.
A turf house by Strandarkirkja church depicts the last farm in this area - deserted in 1696
There hasn't been a farm at Strönd for some 300 years now. It is located right by the open sea as the sailors promised to build a church where they would come ashore, so sandstorms and wind erosion in this area were frequent.
So the farm was abandoned in 1696 (the small sign says) and a miniature of a red turf house has been erected by Strandarkirkja church in remembrance of Vigfús Ingimundarson, the last farmer at Strönd farm in Selvogur.
Strandarkirkja church is built on a sandhill by the sea, but money from the church has been used to cultivate the sand and fences have been put up. As you can see from my photos then the surroundings by the church are now green and lovely with violet lupines.
Strandarkirkja church built in 1888
There are many things to see and do in this area and a new route, Vitaleiðin - the South Coast Lighthouse Trail is a fun way to spend an afternoon. I followed this trail and will show it to you in another travel-blog.
Here we are also in the vicinity of the volcano which erupted in 2021: The Volcanic Eruption in Mt. Fagradalsfjall and Geldingadalir in SW-Iceland.
There are also many things to see and do on the Reykjanesskagi peninsula, f.ex.: Seltún - the colourful Geothermal Area at Krýsuvík on the Reykjanesskagi Peninsula in SW-Iceland.
Have a lovely time in Strandarkirkja church :)
Sources and more interesting articles about Strandarkirkja (in Icelandic):
Ekki einleikið - Árni Óla
Skyggna konan II - Margrét frá Öxnafelli - Eiríkur Sigurðsson
Kirkjur Íslands - Volume 4
Chasing Waterfalls in Iceland
Sænautasel Turf House in the Highland of Iceland
The Dynamic Plant Lupine
Secret waterfall on the South Coast
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