The Last Turf Church of Hof, Iceland

Sep 24, 2014 7 comments

Hof, in Öræfi, is a small village in southeast Iceland, approximately 30 kilometers east of Vatnajökull, and 20 kilometers south of the Skaftafell National Park. Like many Icelandic villages, houses here are roofed with turf, a practice that developed in Northern Europe as early as the Iron age. In order to protect themselves and their livestock from the harsh climate, the settlers constructed shelters using the trees to provide a framework and covering the frame with turf. Near the end of the 18th century, a new style developed with the ends of the buildings made of wood and the turf covering the sides and roofs. Some of these buildings have survived to present times. The Hofskirkja Church is one such building.


Photo credit

Hofskirkja Church, dedicated to saint Clement, was built in 1884, and was the last turf church built in the old architectural style. Its walls are thick and assembled of rocks to give stability as well as insulation, an important element to consider in the Icelandic climate. The roof is made of stone slabs and covered in turf. It is one of six churches in Iceland still standing, which are preserved as historical monuments. Records say that the church was built by the carpenter Páll Pálsson, while the lock and hinges of the church door were made by Þorsteinn Gissurarson, who was a well-known blacksmith from Hof.

The church is maintained by the National Museum but also serves as a parish church.

Building turf houses was widespread in Iceland where turf was used on houses of both the poor and the wealthy, and on all types of houses - homes, stables, and churches. In the 20th century this changed dramatically, as fewer and fewer turf-houses were being built. Now at the start of the 21st century, only a few craftsmen practice the trade, and the knowledge is being passed on mainly through the heritage sector.


Photo credit


Photo credit


Photo credit


Photo credit


Photo credit


Photo credit


Photo credit

Sources: Hof-1 / My Trip Journal / National Museum of Iceland / UNESCO [via Urban Ghost Media]


  1. why is the ground full of humps?

  2. The mounds are old graves.

    1. why would old graves create mounds?? typically old graves create indentations. I would like to know what the mounds are too!

  3. I imagine the harsh winters made the ground to solid to dig. Graves were probably on the surface and covered with stone mounds. The turf is either intentionally planted or grows over the mound naturally.

  4. They do look like graves, but they don't have markers. I wondered if they might be raised to allow travel when the ground is flooded by the glacier melting?? Or there were markers but with no family left to keep the graves they have rotted to nonexistence?

  5. Maybe they are hummocks?

  6. I have been there in person. The mounds are in fact graves. Interesting fact the Church was damaged at one point and rebuilt with wood scavenged from the beaches. That part of Iceland was remote and hard to get to or leave until they built a couple of bridges.


Post a Comment

More on Amusing Planet


{{posts[0].date}} {{posts[0].commentsNum}} {{messages_comments}}


{{posts[1].date}} {{posts[1].commentsNum}} {{messages_comments}}


{{posts[2].date}} {{posts[2].commentsNum}} {{messages_comments}}


{{posts[3].date}} {{posts[3].commentsNum}} {{messages_comments}}