The French one at Frakkastígur

The French hospital witch the French built in 1902 in the land of Eyjólfsstaðir, just west of Rauðará in Reykjavík, now stands on the corner of Lindargata and Frakkastígur, in the center of Reykjavík. When the hospital was built, 200 schooners with about 4,000 sailors on board came here to the Icelandic sea-jurisdiction every season. The cod fishing season was from the beginning of February until the end of August. The French first came to fish in 1825, and it largely ended in 1914 when the First World War broke out. During these 89 years, around 4,000 French sailors died off the coast of Iceland. The hospital, which could accommodate 20 patients, and operated until 1927, had Icelandic doctors and French nurses. In 1935, the hospital was converted into a middle school, later a children’s school, and since 1977 it has housed the Reykjavík Music School. The house was renovated and returned to its original state in 1988. Two other hospitals were built by the French in Iceland, right after the hospital in Reykjavík, one in Fáskrúðsfjörður in the eastern fjords, where it now houses an excellent hotel, the third in Heimaey, which was much smaller , with room for nine patients. That house is now a residential building.

A postcard of the French Hospital from 1909, but the chief physician from 1905 until its closing was Matthías Einarsson, the father of Louisa Matthíasdóttur (1917-2000), one of Iceland’s foremost painters.

The environment around the old hospital has completely changed since it was built in 1902, it was originally designed by Danish architect Anton Bald

The corner of Lindargata and Frakkastígur, but the house is on Lindargata, according to the house number.

Life and light in the house as the music studies continue


Reykjavík 12/10/2022 : A7C, A7R IV – FE 1.4/24mm GM, FE 1.2/50mm GM

Photographs & text : Páll Stefánsson