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In former times the main route into town passed over Skólavörðuholt hill. The first Reykjavík town plan, in 1927, included a “cultural citadel” of public build­ings (university, theatre, art gallery and national museum) around a square on the hilltop, with a new church in the centre. One public building, the Einar Jonsson Museum was already located on the site. The citadel concept proved controversial, and was never put into practice.

In 1937 Guðjón Samúelsson, originator of the citadel concept, was commissioned to design a new church to be built on the hill, in memory of Iceland’s greatest hymn­ writer, Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614-1714). He designed Hallgríms Church in 1940-42, construction began in 1945 and the church was conse­crated on 26 October 1986.