Eyrarbakkakirkja, the Eyrarbakki Church

The church in Eyrarbakki, right nextdoor to The Red House, was inaugurated in December of 1890. Before that, the people of Eyrarbakki attended services in the neighboring village of Stokkseyri, but as the population of Eyarbakki grew, reaching 702 in 1890, it was time for Eyrarbakki to have its own church. The church seats 230-240 people.

Eyrarbakkakirkja 2009.

The church of Eyrarbakki’s main proponent was the Reverend Jón Björnsson, and he was pastor of the church from its opening until 1892. The church was designed by Jóhann Fr. Jónssyni, the chief carpenter in Eyrarbakki from 1880 to 1890, but he died before the church’s completion.

The alarpiece, painted by Queen Louise of Denmark, 1891.

One of the main points of interest is the church’s alterpiece, on which is painted a picture of Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (John 4, 13-14). “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him, he will never be thirsty.” The Reverend Jón Björnsson sailed to Denmark to obtain building materials for the church, and while there he was given an audience with King Christian IX and Queen Louise. They liked him so well, that the queen gave him the church altar, which she herself had painted. The altarpiece bears her name and the year 1891. The Queen was quite an artist and her work is also found in three churches in Denmark: in Gentofte, Klitmøller og Lundø.

Other items of interest are the candlesticks from Kaldaðarneskirkja, the church in Kaldaðarnes, which was closed in 1902. The candlesticks, inscribed with the year 1780 and the letters E.S.S. Stjakarnir, are clearly Icelandic craftsmanship and all hand-made. The chandelier also comes from Kaldaðarneskirkja.

In 1918, a bell was added in the tower, which rang twice an hour. It was a gift from the Danish merchant James A. Lefolii in memory of the many decades of the Lefolii family in Eyrarbakki.

The baptismal fountain, created by the artist Ríkharður Jónsson, was a gift to the church on its 60th anniversary in 1950. The Christening bowl, by the goldsmith Leifur Kaldal, was given to the church in the memory of the midwife Þórdís Símonardóttur at her 100th birthday.

Hanging in the church is a model of a traditional 12-man rowing vessel. The original on which the model is based in preserved in the Maritime Museum of Eyrarbakki.

Extensive renovations to the church were carried out from 1977 to 1979. A new 11-pipe organ by Björgvin Tómasson was put into service on Christmas day, 1995.

Pipe organ by Björgvin Tómasson 1995.

The pastors of the church have been the Reverend Jón Björnsson 1890–1892, followed by  Ólafur Helgason 1893–1904, Gísli Skúlason 1905-1942, Árelíus Níelsson 1943–1952, Magnús Guðjónsson 1953–1973, Valgeir Ástráðsson 1973–1980, Úlfar Guðmundsson 1980-2008. From 2008 through the present day, the church in Eyrarbakki has been presided over by the Reverend Sveinn Valgeirsson.

© Inga Lára Baldvinsdóttir / Magnús Karel Hannesson