Akureyri, Iceland

A daunting figure erected at the heart of Akureyri.

When it first consecrated in the 1940s, the Akureyrarkirkja was nothing like the people had ever seen. Ledged columns with an aesthetically pleasing symmetry, basalt pillars with strips of obsidian running down the front and steepled towers a staircase to heaven. Fast forward 80 years and it remains a surprising twist on the traditional church. The design is the handiwork of Gudjon Samuelsson, the same architect who holds the honor of having brought to life the Landakot Roman Catholic Cathedral of Reykjavik. While some may see the modern hints of American skyscrapers in the sharp edges of Akureyrarkirkja, Gudjon saw the basalt stacks of Svartifoss within them.

Extraordinary both in appearance and in its interior, the Akureyrarkirkja boasts a 3200-pipe organ transported by land and sea from Germany. Within the alcove and past the wooden pews, stained-glass windows adorn the dais. The sunlight filtering in through the colored glass can be seen to envelop the cherub like features of the figures depicted in a holy glow. This stunning work of art originates from the Coventry Cathedral of England which stands no more, having been razed to the ground during the Second World War.

Perhaps what strikes visitors as the most odd is the hulking mass of timber and steel, suspended from the yawning heights of the ceiling. The floating ship was installed as an ode to Nordic tradition of offerings made for the protection of loved ones at sea. What appears to be a rather pagan tradition is placed centre stage within Akureyrarkirkja, a rather startling revelation. That said, with its minimalist exterior and sparse interior, Akureyrarkirkja has quite drastically redefined religious architecture and accurately portrays the ever changing face of Akureyri.

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Tips Before You Go
As an add on to the Viking ship, the museum is filled with bas reliefs etched by Asmundur Sveinsson detailing the life of Christ and his crucifixion in a rather unconventional manner. These are admirable in terms of the varied light the events are being portrayed in. Do remember to check on the opening hours of the church before the trip. Visitors are allowed but the opening hours do change frequently by the month.
Eyrarlandsvegur, 600 Akureyri, Iceland