Sæmundur’s story

In front of the main building of the University of Iceland stands the work Sæmundur on the Seal. This sculpture was originally made in 1926 by sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson. The work shows Sæmundur “The Wise” Sigfússon (1056-1133), a priest at Oddi in Rangárvellir, ambushing the devil after having ridden on its back in the guise of a seal all the way from Paris and home to Iceland. Sæmundur was racing two other schoolmates to get the church-
land and the large farm Oddi as a prize. First come, first served. Sæmundur was considered one of the most learned men of his time. He wrote a lot of historical material, including about the kings of Norway, but his writings are all lost. Sæmundur was Ari’s motivator to write Íslendingabók, and Ari asked Sæmundur’s opinion on it when he had finished writing the story. Because of Sæmundur’s education, it was rumoured he was a sorcerer and had outmanoeuvred the devil many times.

The main building of the University of Iceland by Guðjón Samúelsson was inaugurated on June
17, 1940. The cornerstone was laid for the building on December 1, 1936.

Reykjavík 06/01/2022 10:38 – A7R III: FE 1.4 / 24mm GM

Photo and text: Páll Stefánsson