Geirsstaðakirkja – A Replica of Turf Church


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Geirsstaðakirkja Turf Church in East-Iceland is a replica of an old Turf Church. On the land of Litli-Bakki in East-Iceland, you will find this facsimile of a 1000-year-old farm turf church, which existed at this site in the Commonwealth Age during 930-1262. The ruins of the old church were unearthed during an excavation in 1997 by an archaeological team. The dig on the land of Geirsstaðir was run by the East Iceland Cultural Museum of Minjasafn Austurlands. This land was consisting of a Viking house, a turf-church, and two small buildings. A circular wall was excavated around the buildings.  Geirsstaðakirkja turf church is constructed of turf, wood, and stone just like the old ways of building turf houses. Inside the turf church, you will discover a wooden altar that features a beautiful big wooden cross. There is a carved guest-book and information that lie on the altar of the turf church. This guest book is wrapped in plastic. A small open window is also made above the altar. This turf building style was a common practice in Iceland during the rise of Christianity. It is believed that this turf church was a domestic church as it was only meant for the farm.

The church is believed to be the home-church of Hróar, the son of Uni, a Danish Garðarsson. Geirsstaðakirkja turf church was constructed in 1999-2001. The construction of this church was funded from the fund of the European Union, but also from “Vísindasjóður Rannsóknarráðs Íslands“, “Norður-Hérað” and “Nýsköpunarsjóður atvinnulífsins“, famous Icelandic institutions. The turf church, which faces east and west, was blessed in 2001. In the same year, a Christening took place here for the first time. Geirsstaðakirkja is a beautiful little turf church that has carved benches in front. You can stop by the church while on your journey in East Iceland. Since this turf church is a replica, there are only five turf churches left in Iceland that are present in their original form.

The biggest of the five churches is Saurbæjarkirkja turf church while Víðimýrarkirkja turf church is considered to be the most beautiful of the remaining turf churches. The oldest of the turf churches is the Grafarkirkja turf church while the smallest one of the turf churches in Iceland is Núpsstaðakirkja turf church. Hofskirkja turf church is the last turf church that was built in Iceland and is probably the most visited by travelers because of its location near Skaftafell Nature Reserve. In Reykjavík, there is one more turf church at Árbæjarsafn Museum that was rebuilt from baðstofa wood. You will find artwork there that looks like a Viking ship. It was built by Donald Gunn, a famous Scottish stone-builder. 

What to explore on your trip to East Iceland

While exploring East Iceland, you can visit Hengifoss waterfall, the third-highest waterfall in Iceland. This waterfall is an eye-catching natural site due to the red clay and black basalt patterns of the cliff face. The basalt rocks and red clay provide a beautiful backdrop for the narrow ribbon of water cascading down. There is a possibility to climb behind the waterfall and there is a small cave to explore as well. Trekking to the waterfall takes about 40-60 minutes from the parking space and you will see another beautiful waterfall on the way – Litlanesfoss waterfall. The waterfalls run into the Lagarfljot Lake, home of the famous monster Lagarfljotsormur. If you want to experience camping and jungle trails then you can visit Hallormsstaður National Forest which is located near Egilsstaðir village. It has eleven marked trails for hiking and two camping sites that are surrounded by birch woods. Another spot to visit when traveling in the area is Vök hot spring pool. Located along Urriðavatn Lake, the hot spring pool offers a chance to refresh by the crystal clear water of the lake in geothermal heated water. 

Way to Reach Geirsstaðakirkja

Geirsstaðakirkja turf church is located at a distance of 621 kilometers North-East from Reykjavík, and should therefor not be visited on a day trip from the capital city. We recommend that you visit the church when self driving around the whole country. The church is situated at the junction of roads 925 and 926, nearby Lagarfossvirkjun hydroelectric power station. The turf church can be seen from the road. 

Geirsstaðakirkja on a map

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