Erik Nitsche: Church of Skalholt in Iceland
Artist: Erik Nitsche
The Icelanders have been predominantly Christian since the year 1000, but the church itself is not a vital force in Icelandic life. Few Icelanders claim that they believe in a "personal God" and more that they believe in the existence of some "cosmic spirit." Nevertheless, down through the centuries, religion has played an important role in the life of the Icelanders. The Evangelical Lutheran Church, imposed on them by the Danish King in 1550, remains the national church, and over ninety percent of the population are members. Constitutionally established, it is headed by a bishop. There is, however, absolute freedom of worship in Iceland, and many other religious groups exist. The largest of these groups are the Roman Catholics, the Pentecostals, and the Seventh-Day Adventists. The Church of Skalholt is located in southwest Iceland. As is characteristic of Icelandic architecture, the decoration is minimal and of classic simplicity. Skalholt, which means "hollow in a hill," was the educational, cultural, spiritual and secular focus of power in Iceland from 1056 to 1796. There is an area in Skalholt that is of tremendous historical significance to the Icelanders. Since 1082, a church has always stood on this particular spot. The church that stands there today, which is the eleventh, was built in 1963. There is still today a Bishop of Skalholt, though he is no longer in residence and serves under the Bishop of Iceland.
This painting was originally published on the Fleetwood® First Day Cover for the Iceland Europa 1987 Modern Art - Architecture stamp issued May 4, 1987.
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