Reykjavik's Hallgrímskirkja is a reminder of the clergyman who gave Iceland's Lutherans the Passion Hymns.
For many traditional Lutherans in Iceland, the words and the tune herald the beginning of Lent:
Jesus in Gethsemane Bowed with mortal strife I see: Conscience stings me, for I know ‘Twas my sin constrained Him so: All that weight of agony God’s Son underwent for me.
Set to the music of a typical Baroque chorale, it’s one of 50 Passion Hymns that were composed by the 17th-century clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson, one of the best known poets of Iceland. Traditionally, one of the Passion Hymns was sung each working day of the seven weeks of Lent.
Pétursson lives on in another way in Iceland. Reykjavík’s skyline is dominated by the Lutheran Hallgrímskirkja church, which is named for him.
Designed by the State Architect of Iceland, Guðjón Samúelsson, whose credits also include Reykjavík’s Catholic cathedral, the Hallgrímskirkja was built between 1945 and 1986. At 244 feet tall, Hallgrímskirkja is the tallest building in Reykjavík, the second tallest building in Iceland. Visitors can ascend an observation tower and get some fine views of Reykjavik and its nearby mountains. The church interior is 18,040 square feet.