The psalmist Hallgrímur

Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614-1674) was a priest and Iceland’s greatest hymn poet. He is best known for the Passion Psalms, which were first published in print in 1666. The Passion Psalms are world renowned work, and they have probably been translated into more languages than any other work written in the Icelandic language. The hymns are 50, which he wrote in the years 1656-1659 when he was in Saurbær at Hvalfjarðarströnd. Hallgrímur’s life was very unusual, he was brought up at the episcopal seat at Hólar in Hjaltadalur and he went to Denmark / Germany to study at a young age. When he was in the senior class at Frúarskóli in Copenhagen in 1636, some Icelanders came to the city who had been abducted in the Turkish invasion of 1627, rusty in the Icelandic language and their Christian faith. The student Hallgrímur was hired to refresh their studies and he fell in love with Guðríður Símonardóttir (1598-1682) and he stopped his studies and went with the group to Iceland in the spring of 1637, with Guðríður pregnant with their first child. Guðríður was a married woman in Vestmannaeyjar, but her husband Eyjólfur Sólmundarson escaped being kidnapped. The first few years they lived in Njarðvík, where Hallgrímur worked in a Danish store in Keflavík. He was then ordained as a priest in Hvalsnes in the western part of Reykjanes by Bishop Brynjólfur Sveinssson in 1644 and in 1651 he moved to Saurbær at Hvalfjarðarströnd, and served that church for many years. He died of tuberculosis in the town of Ferstikla at Hvalfjarðarströnd in 1674. Two churches in Iceland are named after Hallgrímur, Hallgrímskirkja in Saurbær on Hvalfjarðarrströnd, and of course the country’s largest church, Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavík.

Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavík bathed in the rays of the midnight sun, June 5 this summer

Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614-1674)

Hvalsneskirkja in Reykjanes, in the autumn rain today. Hallgrímur Pétursson sat there as priest from 1644 to 1651

Reykjanes / Reykjavík : 29/09/2022 – 05/06/2022 : A7R IV, A7R III – FE 1.4/24mm GM, FE 1.2/50 GM

Photographs & text: Páll Stefánsson