Hvalsneskirkja Church in Sandgerdi is a treat for both archaeology and photography buffs. This beautifully preserved church and adjacent graveyard date back to 1887. The lovely structure is completely built from carved stone collected from the region. The interior uses driftwood that locals collected from the nearby shoreline.
The current church dates back to the 19th century, but there has always been a church on this site since the Middle Ages. The first churches in Hvalsnes were Catholic and had been dedicated to the Holy Mother, St. Olaf, and St. Catherine. Like most churches in Iceland, Hvalsneskirkja today is Lutheran.
The Hvalsneskirkja church area is very special to those Icelanders who love history and music. The beloved 17th-century priest, Hallgrimur Petursson, was the church site’s longest serving clergyman. Icelanders still sing his hymns today, and the famous Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik is named after him.
Locals carved area basaltic stones to build the simple yet impressive Hvalsnes church during 1886 and 1887. They collected driftwood from the nearby shores to design the church’s interior.
One of the most beloved items in the church is a gravestone with the name of Steinunn Hallgrímsdottir, the daughter of Reverend Hallgrimur Petursson and his wife, Gudridur Simondardottir. Steinunn died at just 4 years old in 1649, and her parents carved her gravestone. The gravestone went missing for many years. However, in 1964 construction workers found the stone. Locals had taken it to use as part of the walkway leading to the church.
The church is still operating today and can hold up to 100 people.