Iceland // Eastern and southeast Iceland //

The church

Kirkjubæjarklaustur’s modern church is sided in granite slabs and has an unusual facade resembling a ski lodge. The village has had religious associations since Irish monks set up camp here before the Settlement; a Benedictine convent was later established in 1186, though two of its nuns had the misfortune to be burned at the stake for heresy. But it was during the Lakagígar eruptions that the church here achieved national fame: as lava flows edged into the town, the pastor, Jón Steingrímsson, delivered what became known as the “Fire Sermon”, and the lava halted. It’s possible to climb the escarpment behind the church by means of a chain, and from the top there’s a fine view of the diverted flow, and also of Landbrot, a collection of a thousand-odd pseudocraters formed during another eruption in 950.

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