Friday Night Folk-tale: Strandarkirkja

Strandarkirkja is located on the south coast of Iceland and is one of Iceland‘s oldest churches. The current building dates back to 1888, but there has been a church in this location since at least the 13th century.

The following tale is told of the origins of the church:

A young man, the son of a farmer, was sailing from Norway with a load of wood for building houses. As his ship neared the southern coast of Iceland, a great storm broke out with thick fog and darkness and the crew were convinced that the ship was going to founder upon the shore and break apart. There are few natural harbours in this particular area of the southern coast and there was no way of finding any shelter from the storm. 

The crew knelt in prayer and pledged to build a church if they were able to land safely, in the location of landing. As soon as the words of the pledge were uttered, a bright light blazed up on the shore. They followed the light and suddenly the storm died down and all was still. As they approached land, they saw that the light emanated from a shining figure on the shore, but it disappeared when they landed. 

Looking back in the dawn light, they saw that the light had guided them through a narrow trough of calm sea that cut through a great wall of breaking surf. Since that occurrence, the inlet where they landed has been known as Englisvík or Angel Inlet. As pledged, they built a church up on the shore above their landing place, where a church as stood ever since. 

Ever since that first miracle, people who are struggling against the odds, in danger or trouble, have made pledges to the church. Usually these pledges come in the form of money, but people have also given furnishings to the church, and there are many stories of wishes being miraculously fulfilled.
Some say that as a result of this, it is the richest church in Iceland.

Copyright notice: The wording used to tell this folk-tale is under copyright. The story itself is not copyrighted. If you want to re-tell it, for a collection of folk-tales, incorporate it into fiction, use it in a school essay or any kind of publication, please tell it in your own words or give the proper attribution if you choose to use the wording unchanged.


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