One of the most prominent buildings in Reykjavik, this concrete church is the second tallest building in Iceland and one of the most impressive structures in the country.
About the Hallgrímskirkja
An extraordinary building in the heart of Reykjavik, we first visited it – or the exterior of it anyway – at about 1am in the morning. This is not as insane as it may sound as we were there in the summer, and the night sky was never truly dark. We returned after lunch the next day to see the church inside and ascend the tower. Thick cloud restricted the views from the tower, but it was nonetheless a superb vantage point from which to survey the city.
The church was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson, at the time the State Architect, in 1937. Following 38 years of construction, the building was eventually completed in 1986. Significant restoration to tackle subsidence was undertaken between 2008 and 2009. The tower of the church is almost 75m hight and was originally designed to house a radio mast, however it has never been used for this purpose. Today it houses a viewing deck that offers panoramic views over the city and the mountains beyond (if the weather allows!).
Rising out of the ground, two side wings culminate in the central tower – something of an abstracted spire – which also marks the main entrance to the church. The tower itself tapers to form a roof at a gentler angle than that of the wings that rise up to create the unique form of the building. At the top of the tower is a small cross. Six small windows are located above the main door, their size contrasting with the monumental scale of the church and giving rise to an idea of carving out from a solid mass that has emerged from the ground, inseparable from the volcanic rock on which it’s built.
In the tradition of the square in front of the cathedral that is so common in continental Europe, the front of the Hallgrímskirkja is marked by a large open space – perhaps not a square due to a lack of enclosure on the surrounding sides, but certainly a space dictated by the architecture of the church. This allows the full scale of the front facade to be appreciated easily. Strikingly, roads lead to the Hallgrímskirkja from four different directions – the church has very much been located as a monument for the city.
Internally the space is large, but not extraordinary. The white walls do give the nave a certain air of peacefulness however. I really don’t know very much about organs, of which a large one has been installed that I’m told is really quite special. I will say that the quality of sound inside the church is spectacular.
Visiting Details: Hallgrímskirkja
The building is free to visit. There is a small charge to ascend to the viewing platform housed in the tower. There is no dress code.The building is free to visit.
Website: www.hallgrimskirkja.is (Icelandic website)