Information about Skálholt

Skalholt is a historical site and an ancient bishop seat in South Iceland.


From 1056 to 1785 Skalholt was one of two episcopal seats in Iceland, the other being Holar in the North and an important cultural and political center. Iceland’s first offical school was founded there, Skalholtsskoli, the roots of the current Reykjavik Gymnasium (‘MR’)  in Reykjavik.

In the Middle Ages, Skalholt featured a monastery (in Catholic times) along with its cathedral and school, dormitories and a smithy, as well as extensive farming being done. The end of the religious strife during the Reformation was marked tragically at Skalholt, where the last Catholic bishop, Jon Arason, was beheaded there with his two sons in 1550.

Skalholt today

Skalholt today has an ordaining bishop. Skalholt features a large evangelic Lutheran church—Skálholt Cathedral—built between 1956 and 1963. Skalholt also serves as an education and information center of the Church of Iceland. Skalholt is a popular tourist destination and hosts many cultural events, such as concerts, the most prominent of these being the July summer concerts program featuring, classical musicians, choirs and more.

In 1954, during an archelogical excavation a sarcophagus was found, which was believed to contain the bones of Pall Jonsson, one of Skalholt's most powerful bishops. These are on display along with other relics found at the site in an underground vault beneath the memorial church, built in the years 1956-1963. At the vault are also two other Icelandic tombstones and a number of ones of foreign bishops and a governor. Today, Skálholt is visited for the new cathedral, the tomb of bishops, the museum, and the collection of ancient books in the tower. A public high school is at Sk

Within the church you may also find relics from an earlier church that was built at the site in the 17the century. The church tower contains ancient books and among the eight church bells is a small one that dates from the middle ages that still retains a beautiful and clear tone.

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