When I first visited Iceland, I have to admit, I was not impressed with their churches. They couldn’t be more simple and plain, uninteresting to me.
That is until I saw “Hallgrimskirkja” in Reykjavik. It is a super modern church that is designed to emulate the basalt columns found in Iceland’s geology throughout the island. Very cool.
Hallgrimskirkja had caught my attention, and so I started taking a fresh look at the other more simple churches. I soon became hooked.
- First, many of these simple churches offer a beautiful contrast with a dramatic background (Iceland is full of dramatic backdrops.)
- Second, their simplicity makes for a good focal point in minimalist image.
- Third, because they are simple and minimalistic, many of the churches also look great in black and white.
Since I’ve been exploring minimalist photography and I’m working to improve my black and white imagery, “simple churches” made for a great new project.
I researched Iceland’s churches on Google, created my list, and I was off to collect my images.
Black Church of Budir
This has become one of my favorite churches because its setting offers multiple compositions. It is also uniquely black. It gets its black color from the pitch that covers and protects the outside from the elements.
We drove 1 1/2 across the Snaefelsness Peninsula to visit this church.
My research indicated this was a very old stone church with a turf roof. It was round with a stone fence encircling it. Intrigued, we drove 10 miles on a dirt road in the pouring rain to find it. In the distance, a church appeared on a hill, but it didn’t match my photo. The newer church must be next to the old one (I thought). Upon arriving in the parking lot, Jeff generously jumped out of the car in the still pouring rain to search the wet meadows around the church. The stone church was not to be found. Little did I know that Grafarkirkja is common name for a church, and the one I really wanted to visit was on the other side of Iceland. But the light was good (despite the rain), and we were already there.
A cool looking turf church that we were able to find.
This church has an interesting story. It was given to Iceland by Norway in 2000 to commemorate the millennium celebration of Iceland’s official adoption of Christianity. It is located on Heimaey Island off the south coast. It is a traditional stave church and built as a near perfect replica to the Norwegian Haltdalen Stave Church built circa 1170.
Now I am hooked. I can’t drive by a church without wanting to capture its photo. From a distance many churches may look alike, but with a keen eye, I realized they were all unique. It looks like my project will continue on our next visit.
Do you have a favorite?
All of the churches were so beautiful, but the turf church surrounded by graves?! Come on! That was amazing and such a photo!
It was amazing to be there. I kept thinking the mounds might be moss covered volcanic rocks as we’ve seen similar on other part of Iceland. But I did some more research and they are graves. It is very unique.
I think the black church with the mountains in the back is my favorite photograph. But the church roof is really intriguing. Especially the mounds in the back made by graves – I think that is really cool!
Thanks for sharing!
The “turf” roof! 🙂
I really like the. simplicity of the black church against the mountains. Good choice!
I love the photos, but I wonder, do the people in Iceland attend worship services at these churches? It is probably hard to know because of the pandemic. Did you get any idea of how many attend in normal times?
Excellent question for which I do not have an answer. I know the main church in Reykjavik (Hallgrimskirkja) does have regular services, but is also used as a concert venue. Websites for several of the churches indicate they are still in use, but I didn’t see anyone about the churches at anytime (except maybe a tourist or two).
These are great. What a great idea!
Thank you very much Kathryn. Your pictures showed to me a permanent contrast between temporary human activity (where the meditation was considered as our maximum) and rough countryside. Wonderful work! Ondrej
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