Bjarg in Mišfjöršur
Bjarg in Mišfjöršur is the birthplace of the greatest outlaw in Icelandic history, Grettir Įsmundarson the strong. At Bjarg Grettir always had refuge with his mother Įsdķs, and despite how improbable it seems for an outlaw, his home was at Bjarg. Grettir was born sometime around the year 1000 and he did not become an old man. Many place names in the neighbourhood of Bjarg and indeed throughout the county bear the name of the outlaw e.g. Grettishaf, Greetistak and Grettishöfši at Arnarvatn. Grettir dwelt at Grettishöfši for several winters and was uncomfortable there because he was afraid of the dark. Grettir was killed on the island of Drangey in Skagafjöršur and his killers brought the head of the champion to his mother Įsdķs who buried it under a stone in the field at Bjarg. A memorial was erected to Įsdķs at Bjarg in1974. The memorial displays relief from Grettirs saga made by Halldór Pétursson.
In Vesturhóp is the church and historical site Breišabólstašur. The first laws of Iceland were written at Breišabólstašur. In earlier times a print shop was located here and the farm was considered exceptionally good, among the best benefice in the north of Iceland. The bar association of Iceland has erected a memorial by the farm. In recent years archaeological research has been carried out at the farm.
A church is located at Efri Nśpur and in its cemetery lays at rest the Poetess. Tourists often visit her grave, but Rósa is known for her love poems, which she wrote to her lover Natan Ketilsson who was murdered at Illugastašir at Vatnsnes.
Forsęludalur is a farm inside Vatnsdalur, which is the closest to the highlands of the east. According to the book Landnįma Frišmundur the man whom Frišmundarvötn (Lakes of Frišmundur) are called after, lived at Forsęludalur. Frišmundarį runs through several waterfalls on its way from Auškśluheiši down to Vatnsdalsį just by the farm Forsęludalur. It was at Forsęludalur that Grettir wrestled with Glįmur.
Hof ķ Vatnsdal
Hof is a farm in east Vatnsdalur. Here lived Old Ingimundur Žorsteinsson who settled the whole of Vatnsdalur from Helgavatn and Uršarvatn. Ingimundur was among the settlers of Iceland who did not flee out of Norway. Ingimundur was a friend and a supporter of the Norwegian king Harlaldur Hįrfagri. One night at a mid winter ceremony a prophetess predicted to Ingimundur that he would settle in a land called Iceland and there he would become a respected man and his family would grow greatly. Ingimundur is considered to have settled in Vatnsdalur around the year 900. He was the chieftan of the Vatnsdęlir while he was alive. In the field at Hof is a knoll Gošhóll that is believed to be the place where Ingimundur's temple stood. There is also a beautiful grove at this site, which includes Icelandic aspen trees planted in 1927.
Illugastašir is mostly known as the scene of the tragedy prior to the last execution in Iceland but also for its extensive Eider duck laying area, one of the largest in the country. The ruins of the workshop of Natan Ketilsson still stand there among the other sites that played large role in the dramatic events, which occurred in Illugastašir early in the 18th century.
Spįnskanöf is situated in Skagaströnd just to the north of the estuary of Laxį in Refasveit. There can be found a very steep drop to the beach, about 40-50 meters. A lot of bird life is in the cliffs and several reefs out from the shore. It is worthwhile to do this route. The Sagas tell that at this spot Spanish pirates came to land and headed for the vicarage at Höskuldsstašir. The priest gathered his men and stallions, had brushwood tied to the stallions and set on fire. The stallions were then pushed towards the pirates and some of the pirates died on the field and others fell into the cliffs. The name derives from this encounter.
Žingeyrar was known as one of the largest farms and church sites in Hśnažing. From Žingeyrar church is one of the widest and most beautiful views in the county. No farm in the county was as large as Žingeyrar and rich men and chieftains lived there throughout the ages. Žingeyrar lies close to Mišhóp and from there lies a reef almost to the other side of the lake. It is likely that these are the estuary /eyrar from which the name Žingeyrar is derived.
Žingeyrarkirkja - the church at Žingeyrar gives it a grand look and it is now the only visible reminder of the ancient dignity of the place. The congressman Įsgeir Einarsson had the church built. Prior to this there was an old turf church the site. Įsgeir decided to build the church with stone, but suitable material was not available in the vicinity so in the winter 1864 - 1865 Įsgeir had stone moved from Nesbjörg to the church site. The stone was taken by sled over the ice-covered lake Hóp, an 8 km long journey. A Stonemason by the name of Sverrir Runólfsson built the church walls. Each stone in the walls was put in stowage or tied down and also glued with chalk, therefore the stones have not moved to this day. Įsgeir and Sverrir arranged most of the plans for the church and its building took 13 years.
On The 9th of September 1877 the Reverend Eirķkur Briem from Steinnes consecrated the church. Objects from the old church were moved to the new one. The church has many valuable objects. The oldest of these is an altarpiece made of alabaster probably from the 13th century. The pulpit is probably of Dutch origin and from the year 1696. The pulpit was a gift from Lįrus Gottrśp lawyer, who resided at Žingeyrar monastery from 1683 - 1721. He also gave a bounteous silver baptismal font with the date 1663 and the date 1697. The church also owns a silver chalice and an alter linen with the date 1763.
Between the church and the old church site is an oval shaped garden called Lögrétta. It is 25 meters in diameter from the east to west and 20 meters from north to south. It is a protected site and is believed to be the ancient assembly place (žing) for the Hśnavatn region.
In the Saga of Jón the saint Bishop of Hólar is told times when famine constricted people and the weather was so cold that the earth was frozen long into the summer. The Bishop went to the spring assembly at Žingeyrar and with the approval of all the assembly he vowed to build a church and farm at Žingeyrar. The same week the ice melted and vegetation began to flourish so it was possible to leave the animals out to browse. This is supposed to have happened early in the 11th century. The decision was made to build a monastery at Žingeyrar probably on the advise of Bishop Jón. The monastery was founded in 1133 and was the first in Iceland. It followed the monastic order of Benedicts of Nurcia but the church was dedicated to Saint Nicholas. The monks vowed to dwell for life in the monastery and upheld its customs and obey the orders of their superior. They could not marry nor own anything - big or small.
The time of the foundation of the monastery is the beginning of the age of literature in Iceland and the literary pursuits were great in Žingeyrar monastery. The Abbot Karl Jónsson recorded the Saga of King Sverrir. The monks Gunnlaugur Leifsson and Oddur Snorrason wrote the Saga of King Ólafur Tryggvason and also the holy Saga of King Ólafur Haraldsson. The Abbot Įrngrķmur Brandson wrote the Saga of Bishop Gušmundur the Good, which is thereby the oldest portrayal of Iceland. It is probable that the Sagas of Hśnavetningar were written in Žingeyrar that is: Heišarvķga Saga, Vatnsdęla, Hallfrešar Saga, Kórmįks Saga, Bandamanna Saga and Grettis Saga (Yearbook of the Travel Association of Iceland 1964, p. 182).
The monastery stood from 1133 until the reformation - for about 400 years and by then it owned most of the farms in the region. With the coming of the new religion Žingeyrar monastery was closed. The King appropriated its properties and his agents controlled them. Most men who resided in cloisters became prosperous and wealthy men. No one who sat in Žingeyar did so with the extent of generousity of Lįrus Gottrśp. In 1638 he attained the monastery due to a feud and had power over half the county. He was tough to deal with and had disputes with chieftains but he fought for rights of the Icelandic people before the King and helped achieving many useful things. He was a wealthy man and he resided with honour at the ancient manor.
Westernmost in Vatnsdalshólar and north of route 1 (the main highway) are a number of unique small hills and at one specific place stand three adjoining ones- Žrķstapar. It is here that the last execution in Iceland was held. On the 12th of January in 1830 Frišrik Siguršsson and Agnes Magnśsdóttir were beheaded for the murder of Natan Ketilsson and Pétur Jónsson from Illugastašir in West Hśnavatn County. The execution block and axe have been preserved by the National Museum of Iceland. A memorial stone has been erected at the execution site.
Top of page