Introduction of Christianity to Iceland

Iceland's conversion to Christianity - The Alternative Story!

Text from the notice board at Thvotte.

One of the most famous Icelanders of the Saga Age, Hallur Thorsteinsson (also called Sidu-Hallur), lived around AD 1000 at the farm Thvotte, which is named for this river. Hallur was regarded as one of the most noble men of his age and a leader in Iceland's conversion to Christianity. In his Book of Icelanders, Ari the Wise describes as follows the events leading up to the conversion of Iceland:

King Olav Tryggvason, [... great-grandson] of Harald the Fair-haired, brought Christianity to Norway and to Iceland. Olav Tryggvason sent a priest to Iceland named Thangbrandur, and it was Thangbrandur who taught the people here Christianity and baptised all those who were converted to the Christian faith.

Thangbrandur's arrival in Iceland was not welcomed by everyone, upon their learning that he was a Christian. Seeking out Sidu-Hallur, Thangbrandur brought him a message from the king which requested that Hallur provide this  royal emissary with  any  necessary assistance. Hallur received him favourably and invited him to dock his ship in Leiruvogur inlet,  near the place now known as Thangbrandshrof  ‘Thangbrandur's Boat Shelter’. Also, Hallur had a tent erected for Thangbrandur, where the local people were gradually introduced to Christian worship. Hallur soon agreed to be baptised along with his entire household, in what was probably the first Christian baptism ever performed in Iceland. According to the Saga of Christianity:

In the morning, Thangbrandur held a service in his tent, and Hallur took his household along to watch. They heard the sound of bells and noticed the sweet smell of incense, and they saw men arrayed in costly vestments and purple. When Hallur asked his servants what they thought of these Christian rites, they said they were pleased.  On the Saturday before Easter, Hallur and all his household were baptised in the nearby river, which has ever since been known as the Thvotta or ‘WashingRiver’.

 In the summer Thangbrandur rode with Sidu-Hallur to the Althing, or general assembly at Thingvellir, and on that journey baptised many people. He then preached the word of God at the assembly, so that still greater numbers adopted the faith as a result. Although the king's request that Icelanders accept the new religion was presented, no agreement was reached in the beginning. Finally the Christian faction asked Sidu-Hallur to proclaim a code of law for Christians. Instead, he delegated the task to the pagan official Thorgeir Godi. Thorgeir lay down and deliberated under his cloak for over a day and night before finally announcing  his  decision.  According  to  the  Saga  of Christianity, his decree concluded with the following words: It seems to me advisable not to allow those men who oppose each other most vehemently to decide. Rather, let us mediate the matter, so that some of the arguments of each side will be realised. Then we shall all have one law and one faith, because the old saying is surely true: if we divide the law, we will bring on divisiveness. Thorgeir was warning that blood would be shed if Iceland's Inhabitants did not abide by a single code of law and religion. The assembly agreed, as it says in the Book of Icelanders:

Thorgeir concluded his speech in such a way that both sides agreed on everyone having to accept the single code of law which he would decide to declare. This more or less turned out to be a code of Christianity, allowing Icelandto adopt the new religion with next to no conflict.