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The land of noble blood and a magic church

In 1986 study by Guðfræðistofnun which is the Theology department at the University of Iceland. About 2/3 of the Icelandic population had at one time or another made a vow to a church. FlackJacket

Strandarkirkja is a known miracle church and considered by some sources to be the most popular vow-making church in Europe. The miracle-money goes to the upkeep of the church. The money that is left over, is used to help with the upkeep of many other churches in Iceland. Because of the vows and the gifts, this church is one of the richest in the country. You can read more about the church history in my previous blog post here

It is said that even today in the night, people have seen spirit beings surrounding the church. This does not come as a surprise to those who hold the story dear. After all, it was the Lord's angel who marked the turf and sanctified the place. Photo Phiend

After a church funding committee meeting, the priest and his assistant stayed behind to prepare for the Sunday mass. When they were finished, they headed outside and closed the doors. Except, the doors wouldn't close properly. No matter how they tried, they just couldn't close them. They were both large and strong men so this should have been an easy task.

The doors wouldn't close, no matter how hard they tried. Photo taken in 1898 by Frederick W. Warbreck Howell

 After a while they decided to go back inside and figure out what to do. They couldn't just leave the door open. Once inside, they noticed the candles were still burning on the altar. They looked at each other and then blew out the candles. After making sure the candles were taken care of, they walked outside and closed the doors with ease behind them. 

The church doors wouldn't close until they had blown out the candles. Tracy Hunter

They had left the candles on the altar burning. Bryn Davies

The noblest bloodline of all the northern Europe settled down in this desolate, then forested area, of the south-western coast of Iceland. 

From 1300 to 1700 the descendants of Erlendur the strong lived in both Strönd and Nes, a homestead near the Selvogur lighthouse. Erlendur was buried in one of these places. It is unknown who owned the land before him, but Erlendur moved there some time after 1290.

Selvogsviti (Selvogur Lighthouse) next to Nes and near Strandarkirkja.   Steingrímur Þórhallsson

As I just mentioned, Strönd  was the homestead of the family of   lawspeaker  Erlendur Ólafsson the strong  (ca 1235-1312) for around 400 years or 14 generations. His son was the law-speaker Haukr (d.1334) who compiled many Icelandic sagas. He also wrote the book Hauksbók. Haukr's mom was Jorunn who was related to King Halfr's brother from Hordaland in Norway. Haukr's father's lineage can be traced directly to Garðr Agði who was one of Nórr's three sons. Nórr was Norway's first king and considered the founder of Norway.

"Hauksbók from the beginning of the 1300s. AM 544 4to, also known as ´Hauksbók´, is a miscellany which, on top of the various sagas it contains, also contains many informative texts of encyclopedic nature. The first 38 pages consists of various texts on geography (see for example this map of Jerusalem on f. 19v), history, physics and theology." University of Copenhagen. Full manuscript can be read here. 

The king Ypper of Uppsala had three sons: Dan who ruled Denmark, Nóri who ruled Norway and Östen who ruled Sweden. Read the story of Nórr, the descendant of the legendary king Fornjót of Quennland and Finnland on Wikipedia here

Back then there were several farms in the area surrounding Strönd and Nes, insomuch that the lands touched each other.  

A map on display outside Strandarkirkja. It shows how inhabited the area used to be with several farms compacted into the small area of Selvogur. Ferlir

Strandarkirkja has been rebuilt and renovated a few times throughout the years. In 1749 the original church built by the ship crew was long gone. The church was built on desert sand, making it difficult to hold church services in storms and bad weather. 

Sometimes the sand storms were so bad that the church walls were covered in sand. There was no shelter and people didn't go to church in bad weather. It was apparent that the church was in need of a better location to avoid the bad sand storms.

A request was made to move the church to the nearby Vogsós. The request was made by three men: Bishop Ólafur Gíslason (1691-1753), the Royal Governor (stiftamtmann) Johan Christian Pingel and Illugi Jónsson (1694-1753). Their request was granted in 1752 and the church was set to be moved within a two years time.

Selvogur residents were devastated. They feared the blessings would disappear with the church. It was, after all, the Divine Providence who had chosen the spot. The same year as the request was granted, 1752, Governor Pingel left for Denmark. He never returned to Iceland and was relieved of his duties. 

A year after the agreement, in 1753, both Bishop Ólafur and Illugi died. There was no doubt in the residents' minds that this was the fate they sealed when they decided to move the church.

The parishioners have always believed that it would lose its sanctification if it were moved. Therefore the church still stands in the same spot today as it did from the very beginning. Photo taken in 1884. The timber church was built in 1848. Sigfús Eymundsson


The first church on Strönd was built from Norwegian wood. Margrét from Öxnafell frequently attended this church as you may remember from my previous post here. One time when she was down on the beach, she saw a ship arrive and the men carry the wood to land. She described the men in detail, how they looked and how they were dressed. They were 15 or 16 years old. Photo taken in 1898 by Frederick W. Warbreck

A clerk from Vogsós by the name of Rev. Eiríkur Magnússon (d. 1716) was a known wizard. One time when Eiríkur was in a shop in Hafnarfjörður, which is quite a ways away. He looked out the window and said to the cashier, Well, well, goodness gracious, these are not good guests arriving in Selvogur now. He then ran out the door, jumped on his horse and rode eastward towards Selvogur. 

A Turkish ship had showed up in Selvogur in Sigurðarhúsabót. In Sigurðarhús (just east of Strönd) lived a farmer named Jón. Jón went to meet the Turks. Unfortunately for Jón, they were not of the friendly kind. They captured him, stripped off all his clothes, circled around him and poked him with their weapons.
  
While the Turks were bullying Jón, the winds became very strong. The Turks let go of him and ran down to their boat. They rowed out into the ocean towards their ship. To their dismay, they saw their ship had gotten loose and was drifting further away out into the ocean. They began rowing towards it, but they didn't seem to be getting any closer to it. 

In the mean time, Jón put his clothes back on and looked around. He saw Rev. Eiríkur walking around the floor inside the church. Jón walked over to say hi and to tell him what had just happened.

Aerial photo of Selvogur. Strandarkirkja is located on the coast next to (right side of) the green area. It was near the church where the Turks stripped Jón of his clothes and bullied him. Diego Delso License CC-BY-SA

Eiríkur told him, that he shouldn't have approached them, he had no business with them. He was lucky they didn't kill him. He explained to Jón that the Turks had been in too much of a hurry when the weather got bad, that they rushed off without thinking. When they were out on the strait, some of them wanted to go back to kill him. 

They even fought about whether they should go back or not, but because of the weather and their ship floating away, the decided to go after the ship instead. Eiríkur then told him to go home and never bother the foreigners again.

Jón went home, but Eiríkur went up to Svörtubjörg and built a protective cairn out of rocks and vowed that as long as it stands, the Turks would never do harm in Selvogur again. This cairn still stands on Svörtubjörg and the Turks have never come to Selvogur since. 

The stone cairn to protect Selvogur from the Turks. EiríksvarðaFerlir

Kristín Helgadóttir Kristjánsson was a fairly known medium in Iceland. Two biographies have been written about her. She spent much of her days in Canada, which is where she passed away in 1962 while visiting family. 

In 1912, Kristín was visiting Björn Jónsson (owner of Ísafold) and his family. She was with them when he passed away in November 1912. You may remember from earlier posts herehere and here that he was deeply engaged with spiritism and one of the founding members of its society.  

It didn't take long for the spiritists to become aware of her abilities. Björn, Einar Kvaran and Rev. Haraldur Níelsson asked her to come work as a medium for their society. Kristín declined on the grounds that she was heading to Canada to live with her family. 

She suffered many health problems throughout her life and spent much of it working hard to help take care of the family. As far as otherworldly phenomenon go, her mediumistic abilities were of various types. Sometimes they were visions of the past and other times of the future. A friend of her's was certain she could hear people's thoughts. Her reactions were often such that it gave no doubt she had to have known what others were thinking. 

Often, her visions came to her through her dreams. 

Kristín Helgadóttir Kristjánsson (1888-1962). Was known for her clairvoyant abilities. Two books were written about her and the otherworldly nature of her abilities. One book was written by Elínborg Lárusdóttir. Elínborg was also a clairvoyant. You will be able to read more about her in the book I am currently working on. The other book is written by Guðmundur Hagalín.  Photo: Flosi Kristjánsson

During her time in Iceland, she received a cut on her foot which became severely infected. The doctors told her the only way she would survive was to amputate her foot. Kristín was horrified by the thought. She couldn't imagine losing her foot and was determined to find another way. 

One time when she was in her bedroom, she saw a vision of an altar tablet with a picture of the resurrection and the letters Strandarkirkja below. She felt like she could hear a whisper that she should make a vow to Strandarkirkja and she'd get to keep her foot. 

She did as the vision had told her. She went to Strandarkirkja and made a vow. After that, her foot began to get its normal color back. By the time she went back to the doctor, the foot was fine. The doctor was in disbelief and in awe. He couldn't figure out how her foot could have gotten better without any treatment. This made no sense to him.

Painting inside Strandarkirkja.

Árni Óla (1888-1979) was an editor for the newspaper Morgunblaðið and author of several books. He had been with the newspaper since its very beginning in 1913. At that time it was owned by Björn Jónsson's (owner of Ísafold) son. He was a very talented writer and wrote many fascinating historical pieces, especially on the old Reykjavík. 

Árni Óla believed that often sicknesses occurred due to spiritual disharmony. Medicine often struggled to heal these individuals. This is where spiritual healing played a vital role in the healing process of the individual. He was so intrigued by it that he wrote an article about the famous British spiritual healer, Harry Edwards.

Árni Óli was invited to join a bus tour as a group leader for the elderly. The tour started on Tuesday, July 16th, 1963. One of the stops on the tour was Strandarkirkja. The plan was to stay the night at Strandarkirkja and have a devotional meetup the day after. 

When the devotional started,  the pastor, Árelíus Níelsson of the Langholt parish, greeted the congregation. Afterwards, they sang the opening hymn. The weather was optimal and an overwhelming amount of people gathered for the service. The church was full to its utmost capacity with people filling the doorway and some even stood outside. 

After the opening hymn, it was time for Árni Óla to speak about the history of the church. 

"The Women's Society and the Brethren Society of the Langholt parish invites elderly people in the parish on an excursion. Tuesday 16. July at 13:00. - ..." The advertisement for the bus tour which Árni Óla and his wife took part of. Tíminn

Árni Óla had been speaking for about 12-14 minutes and sharing the holy tale of the sea men. Then he said, 

..This is why it was called Engilsvík (Angel's Bay) and in memory of this incident there was a statue of an angel on the hill

As he spoke these words, he looked out the window over to Engilsvík. The hill was bathing in the bright sunlight.

Then suddenly in that same moment, the church and the people in it disappeared. Árni Óla found himself out in the open field and surrounding him was a large crowd of people he had never seen before. They were speaking to him and it seemed like they were there to teach him the actual story of the origin of the church. 

From the look of their clothing, they were from a different era. As they spoke, it was like the church's history appeared in front of him like a movie or silhouettes. But in actuality, it was neither. It was like the film soared in the glowing bright air above the heads in the crowd and each image showed a scene from history. 

The podium that Árni Óla had his vision from. Tracy Hunter

Although he tried, Árni Óla couldn't figure out the context of what they were showing him. Suddenly, the people nearest him moved to the side and an older generation who knew better appeared. This happened several times. 

Árni Óla could tell the generations were further back in history each time by looking at their clothing. He had never before seen, nor would he ever again, see such ancient clothing. The women's clothing were especially strange and colorful. 

The crowd grew bigger and bigger and it got so big that they were in the thousands. He knew he was very far back in time and he was constantly being shown more and more images.

Árni Óla pointed his finger out the windows shown in this picture and right out towards the statue of the angel.  FlackJacket2010

He heard clearly what the crowd was telling him, but the whole time he heard his own voice too. But it was as if his voice was coming from mid air. He didn't bother listening to his own voice as he was more interested in what the crowd was telling him and the images he was being shown. 

He had no idea what was going on inside the church during the vision. His body stood at the podium, which he had completely forgotten, as if he had been pulled out of his life, because he himself was elsewhere. 

He heard someone in the large crowd say that it would be best to go get Skafti. He was certain they were referring to the most wise and the most versed in the law, the lawspeaker Skafti Þóroddson (d. 1030) from Hjalli in Ölfus. In that same instant, he heard the voice of Rev. Árelíus who was calling to him that his time was now up. 

At that moment, he found himself staring at papers he was holding in his hands. He was feeling confused and disoriented. He finished his speech and walked off the podium. He sat down in a chair right next to the podium.  

The chair on the right sits between the altar and the podium. Most likely the chair Árni Óla sat on was in the vicinity of the chair in the photo. Tracy Hunter

The visions continued as he sat there, but this time they were hazier. The large crowd was still there communicating with him through images. He was in no doubt they were trying to tell him the church history in its truest form. He asked himself,

 How could Skafti Þóroddson have anything to do with the church history? 

As far as Árni Óla knew, the church wasn't built until after Skafti's death. This mindboggling event had him questioning the history as he knew it. As soon as he had this questioning thought, the vision quickly disappeared. It was like a curtain falling on a stage or chalk images being erased with a sponge. Unfortunately it seemed like as the images disappeared, so did his memory of it.

The statue of the guiding angel is from 1950 by Gunnfríður Jónsdóttir. She died in 1968 and is buried in the Strandarkirkja cemetery. It is called Landsýn. It is of a white clad angel holding a shining cross and showing the seamen the way to Engilsvík. Tracy Hunter

Árni Óla looked around the church, but didn't know where he was. He saw Rev. Árelíus sitting on a chair and Rev. Halldór Kolbeins up on the podium speaking. He couldn't figure out what he was saying. Where was he? This wasn't Strandarkirkja and these weren't his travel companions.  How in the world did he get to this unknown place? 

Árni Óla was at the verge of despair. Where was the church crowd he was speaking to? What had he told them while he had the vision? Did he speak about what he had seen and heard in such a mysterious way? He had no idea. From the time he looked out the window out to Engilsvík, he had been in another world and rushed through many eras with an unfathomable speed.

When they were exiting the church, he still hadn't figured out what was going. He looked over to his wife and asked her if he had spoken utter nonsense up there. She said he did not, but he had repeated one sentence after another and that wasn't like him. Árni then told her what had happened. and asked if he had appeared strange standing up there. She said that nothing seemed out of the ordinary, except the repetition of sentences.

Árni was beyond himself all that evening, he didn't recognize the landscape around him, nor did he recognize the people traveling with him. It was like he had lost his sense of direction and was little by little finding the right one.

During the vision, he knew that the people he saw had lived in the area. He saw one generation after the other and the oldest being 900 years old. 

Strandarkirkja Erik Olsson

When Árni was calculating how long he had been gone, he figured out how long his speech was or how long it would have taken him to give it. He calculated that the vision had only lasted a couple of minutes. During that time, he was in two places at once. Neither part of him was aware of the other, yet their connection was not broken. 

What bothered him the most was that as soon as the two united, his memory of the vision faded. It was mind-boggling to him how he could have communicated with 25-30 generations in only a couple of minutes.

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