Skálholt, Iceland

Skálholt is a historical, cultural, and religious center on the river Hvítá near Laugarvatn in the south of Iceland. The town was an ecclesiastic power center – the ancient headquarters of Iceland’s bishops and the seat of culture, education, and worldly power for 700 years. It was one of the two bishoprics which, until the Reformation in 1540, governed the Icelandic people. The original cathedral was dismantled in the 18th century. The present church was built in 1963. 

Although many of the artefacts from the ancient churches of Skálholt are held in the National Museum in Reykjavik, the religious and general history of this town attracts visitors to it. For a start, the church has beautiful artwork and visitors can learn more about the interesting history of the place, including its executions and beheadings. Another attraction in this area is Snorri’s Pool at Reykholt, which is situated west of Borgarnes. The Viking historian and renowned writer, Snorri Sturluson, created many of his works at this place. He was assassinated here in 1241, during the early years of the saga age in Iceland, by Gissur Þorvaldsson, a political adversary. The Snorrstofa museum in the town is devoted to Sturluson. There is another monument to Sturluson called Snorralaug (which means Snorri’s pool) behind the town’s school. This is a round pool of about 4 meters (13 ft) in diameter, and behind it is a path, which is said to lead to the cellar where the famous writer was assassinated.

Skálholt is arguably one of Iceland’s most historic sites. In addition to being the seat of bishops from 1056 until 1785, the country’s first school was also founded here in 1056. The effort to build the enormous cathedral in 1153 was considerable, with timbers being transported all the way from Norway. Its intriguing history alone merits a visit to Skálholt.