Churches of Iceland

The Churches of Iceland is the first post in a series on the visual delights of Iceland. Neither scholarly nor scientific, we try to share the delightful surprises we found while traveling around Iceland.

This is not a complete catalog. Rather, it is primarily a self-indulgent scrapbook of personal impressions. We had to skip some churches to maintain our ambitious schedule and vagabond tendencies.

This photo features the lupine that flanks the cemetery and church of Strandarkirkja.
In early June, lupine flank the cemetery and church of Strandarkirkja, which loosely translates as “coastal church.” The name is fitting as the church overlooks the Atlantic and is visible from far at sea. It is locaded on the southern coast of the Reykjanes peninsula in Iceland.

The churches of Iceland

Icelandic ecclesiastical architecture is fascinating, beautiful, and varied. Each church is unique. We encountered tiny, one-room churches and vast cathedrals. Shapes included square, rectangular, cruciform, and octagonal. Building materials mixed stone, imported wood, driftwood, corrugated iron, and even sod. Churches nestled beside the road, stood proudly in the cities, overlooked farms, and rode projections into picturesque lakes. And, nearly all the churches we encountered were unlocked, allowing us unfettered opportunity to photograph them. Only time and vehicle-reliability limited us.

The churches in this portfolio appear in basically counterclockwise order. We started near Keflavik Airport, circled the island, and ended back in Reykjavík.

Why churches?

When we traveled to Iceland in 2012, we had no plan to catalog or document churches. In fact, our extensive research beforehand scarcely touched on churches. Instead, we focused on waterfalls, glaciers, lava fields, puffins, and cute shaggy horses—all the usual things people come to Iceland to see. But, almost immediately, we were smitten by the beauty, variety, and humanity of the churches dotting the landscape.

We came to realize that Icelandic churches are more than cold emblems of theology and dogma. They are more than houses of worship. Churches serve as community-meeting centers, schools, emergency shelters, performance halls, and venues for weddings and christenings. They are an integral part of the life of Icelanders regardless of religious views and feelings.

In short, these structures are not the product of cookie-cutter style but wondrous combinations of shape, color, texture, and symbols—both inside and out. We found the churches of Iceland representative of the best Icelandic cultural values of individuality, community, creativity, humility, and adaptation to the land and nature.

Purchasing our photographs

All of our scenic photographs are available as fine art prints. Use the contact form to the right to get more information. Or, go to our Fine Art Print page to learn about various pricing options.