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Iceland. Republic of.

1. Area: ca. 39,770 sc. mi. N Atlantic is. S of the Arctic Circle, E of S Greenland, W of Norw. Settled in 9th c. or earlier by Irish hermits; they left when Norw. Vikings, chiefly heathen, arrived ca. 875, bringing with them some settlers. presumably Christian, from the Orkney Is., the Hebrides, Ireland, Scot., and Eng.

2. Thorvald* Kodransson came as miss. to Iceland ca. 981. Olaf* I sent to Iceland a number of missionaries, including Thangbrand*; all of them had some success. In 1000 Christianity was made the official religion of Iceland; freedom of religion was decreed 1874. The new ch. was served by foreigners. The country became a bishopric ca. 1056; Isleifur Gissurarson, a native, was bp. ca. 1056–82, with see at his ancestral estate at Skalholt; succeeded by son Gissur Isleifsson (bp. 1082–1118), who endowed the bishopric with the estate and founded for N Iceland the bishopric of Holar ca. 1106. The ch. in Iceland was first subordinate to the archdiocese of Bremen-Hamburg, then Lund (ca. 1104), then Nidaros (Trondheim; 1152). Scholars attended major institutions of learning in Eur. In the 12th–14th cents. the Icelandic Sagas were written.

3. Iceland was conquered by Norw. 1262–64; when Norw. came under Den., Iceland followed 1380. The Reformation was imposed by Christian* III of Den. in 1540 in Skalholt diocese, when G. Einarsson* became bp., and 1550 in Holar diocese, when the Cath. bp. Jori Arason (b. ca. 1484; bp. 1524) was executed. The causes of the Reformation in Iceland were largely political. The ev. ch. system was made the state ch. 1551.

4. The theol. foundation for Lutheranism in Iceland was consolidated by Gudbrandur Thorlaksson* (ca. 1541–1627; called to be bp. Holar 1570; ordained 1571), who obtained printing equipment and pub. many books, most of which were aimed at instruction in Lutheranism. His 1584 ed. of the Bible was the basis of every Bible issued for Iceland till 1826. Because the country was almost completely isolated, various movements in the ch. outside Iceland had little effect on the Icelandic ch. till the 19th c.

5. The external order of the ch. was little changed by the Reformation. Ch. operations were increasingly restricted as more and more ch. properties were appropriated by the state. The see of Skalholt was moved to Reykjavík 1785; the see of Holar was suppressed 1801.

A nat. renaissance began under leadership of Jón Sigurdsson (1811–79; statesman; man of letters). Iceland became an indep. kingdom 1918, but with Christian X (1870–1947; king of Den. 1912–47, Iceland 1918–44) king of both Den. and Iceland; a completely indep. rep. was est. 1944. SP

See also Anglican Scandinavian Conferences; Eddas; Pétursson, Hallgrímur; Pétursson, Pétur; Sveinsson, Brynjulf.

J. Helgason, Islands Kirke fra dens Grundlaeggelse til Reformationen (Copenhagen, 1925) and Islands Kirke fra Reformation til vore Dage (Copenhagen, 1922); K. Gjerset, History of Iceland (New York, 1925).

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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