Þingvellir

Day 70. 7th September. Þingvellir, Central West Iceland.

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Þingvellir, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel

 

This is at the side of the road on the way to Þingvellir.  It must be just a storage shed but I presume it used to be a cottage because it appears to have a chimney.

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Þingvellir, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel

I drove to Þingvellir (Thingvellir) from the camping ground at Hveragerði.  Later I drove to Geysir where there is a camping ground and a restaurant as well as a supermarket for stocking up on stores for my travels in the highlands.

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Þingvellir, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel

This is just outside Þingvellir, no doubt the river flowing through it.

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Þingvellir, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel

Þingvellir is the historical open-air site of Iceland’s Alþingi or Althing, the Law Court and Parliament.  It was founded in 930.  There were four regional þingi and Þingvellir was the central legislative body and the final court of appeal.  The view we see is from the presumed location of the Lögberg or Law Rock.  Thirteen districts each elected three representative (eminent goði or chiefs), who would sit in judgement at the Lögberg.  The long island in the middle distance that the path runs through is Öxaráhólmi, where duels were fought, confined to the island.  (The old Icelandic word for duelling is hólmganga, which mean “march to the island”).

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Þingvellir, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel

From the information board at the site, this is what it may have looked like in the days of the early republic.  The view is from the top of the cliff behind the Lögberg.  The Lögsögumaður (or Lawspeaker) and the assembly of 39 goði or chiefs is on the green patch in the middle foreground.  The Assembly resolved disputes and then it was up to the participants to ensure the resolutions were carried out.  The Rule of Law was one thing and power and force was another.  Armed groups could turn up and there could be battles.

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Þingvellir, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel

Here is another view stepping back a little.  In the distance in the far right is the church and the Prime Minister’s residence.  The Prime Minister’s residence dates from 1930, a thousand years from the first Alþingi, but there has been a church here for a thousand years.  The Assembly could meet in the church when the weather was too inclement outside.  The current church dates from 1859.

The period from 930 to 1264 was the early Republic described in the sagas, where blood feuds and vengeance could have legal force.  Norwegian sovereignty was accepted in 1264 and the Norwegian king decreed a new system of law in 1273.  The Alþingi kept meeting here until 1799.  It then went into abeyance until 1844 when it moved to Reykjavik.  On 17 June 1944, 30,000 Icelanders gathered here to declare Iceland independent.

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Þingvellir, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel

At the time of the Alþingi, a two-week period each summer, goði would build booths for themselves and their supporters.  There are remains of about fifty of these but since later ones were built on top of earlier ones, these are from the 17th and 18th centuries.  It is thought they had a base of stone and turf as well as a wooden frame covered in cloth.  Early booths are thought to have been large and closely spaced.

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Þingvellir, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel

A view from the south at a viewpoint on the top of the cliff.  The path leads to the Lögberg, as indicated by the flagpole, to see which you probably need to click on the image to expand it to a larger size.

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Þingvellir, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel

A similar view on the path from the viewpoint.

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Þingvellir, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel

An historical view.  I think this is in the opposite direction, looking up to our viewpoint.

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Þingvellir, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel

One of the ravines at Thingvellir.  This illustrates another remarkable aspect of the site.  Thingvellir is at the intersection of the American and European plates, a miniature Icelandic version of the Great Rift Valley.  This is Flosagja or Flosi’s gorge and around twenty-five metres deep.

One of the sagas relates an occasion where one of the main protagonists is surrounded at an Alþingi and escapes by leaping the gorge as none are able to follow.  This is much too wide for that but since the valley has widened by seventy metres in the last ten thousand years (and subsided by forty metres), perhaps it was possible a thousand years ago.  If this is the gorge, perhaps the leaper was Flosi in Njál’s saga.  (… which I don’t have time to read again.  Anyone know?).

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Þingvellir, History, Iceland, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel

Finally, a look back towards the Lögberg, the likely site of which indicated by the flagpole under the cliff.

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5 comments on “Þingvellir

  1. Perhaps the little shed in the first pic is where things were brewed that got sold at the booths….

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    • Murray Foote says:

      Very likely though I’ve no idea how far away it is from Thingvellir because I must have stopped for afternoon tea or something between the two. It’s also impossible to say from the photograph how large it would have originally would have been (and I didn’t walk around it). It might even originally have been a long house with families and livestock over the winter.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. John C. Garofalo says:

    Wonderful Murray, just wonderful. Many thanks.

    Like

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