Inspiration, regardless of its source is a powerful agent of creativity. For much of western history, the church and more specifically Christ, has served as a creative muse to artists and writers and poets.
In Iceland, a country dominated by the Christian Lutheran denomination, the country’s largest church, Hallgrimskirkja blends Christian beliefs with its ruggedly beautiful landscape.
Standing 244 feet tall, Hallgrimskirkja took 38 years to complete and draws architectural inspiration from the Iceland’s basalt lava flows.
Its name traces to the Icelandic poet Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614-1674) known for writing the Passion Hymns, a poetic exploration of the final events in the life of Jesus Christ, or Jesus Kristur, in Icelandic.
Complementing the site’s religious narrative is a statue of the Norse explorer Leif Erikson, a gift from the United States government in 1930. Erikson converted to Christianity in 999 and was the first European to discover North America; nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus.
Inside the church, the nave’s towering ceilings didn’t fill me with religious inspiration but a deep appreciation for religion’s influence on our actions. Humanity has a messy history of justifying their motives through religious doctrine, but in Hallgrimskirkja, those actions caused little harm but left behind a symbol of man’s greatest gift: faith.