Cultural heart of Faroe Islands

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The economical heart of the Faroe Islands is certainly the capital Torshavn which has almost half the population of the islands. But right outside Torshavn you find the old cultural capital of the Faroe Islands. Today Kirkjubøur is a small village which is sort of a suburb of Torshavn only a short drive away from the central part of Torshavn and the free city buses even make it our here on a semi-regular basis.

The small harbor in Kirkjubøur

The small village has a splendid location right down at the water so the view is pretty like many places on the Faroe Islands. But unlike most other places you don’t go to Kirkjubøur to enjoy the nature and the view – the main reason to go here is to go and explore the historical buildings in the village which used to be a significant town.

Back in the catholic times the village was the seat of the bishop of the Faroe Islands and it was the center of learning and culture of the islands. Back in the village heyday there was about fifty houses in the village which was actually a huge population center considering the total population of the islands at that time was maybe 4,000 people. After the reformation the village lost its position as the head of the church on the Faroe Islands and the city went into decline. This was exacerbated in a big storm in the middle of the 19th century which took out a huge chunk of land and reducing the village.

The big farm and the ruin of Magnus cathedral in Kirkjubøur

Fortunately there is still something remaining from the glory days of the village. The first thing which you will probably notice is a pretty big church right down at the water – the Olav Church (Olavskirken) used to be further from the water but the big storm took away the land in front of it. The church look simple but it is surprisingly old – apparently the church was founded somewhere between 1250 and 1300.

Behind the current church are the ruins of an old church called the Magnus Cathedral. The ruin looks much more impressive than the current church and it looks like it has been a huge church back in the day. However it is uncertain if the Magnus Cathedral was actually finished or if the work on the church was abandoned before it was completed. We can get inside the ruin but there is some work going on preserving or restoring the ruin so it can last another 700 years.

The ruin of the Magnus cathedral

After the short visit to the ruin we head back a few meters to the biggest farm in the village and apparently on the Faroe Islands as a whole. The building is big it has a traditional grass roof and is painted black with red doors which makes it look very nice with the contrasting colours. The farm is old and it has been in the hands of the Patursson family for 17 generations – but the oldest part of the house might be even older. The main rooms called the roykstovan and stokkastovan date back to the 11th century.

The old form is still inhabited by the family but it is possible to go inside and visit the old rooms and look at them. The main room is pretty big and has a high sealing it is the old heart of the house around which the owners life used to be centered. I guess they today have some rooms which has been more up to the standards of modern day and only saved this historic room. There is only access to a couple of rooms so the visit to the house was pretty quick but interesting – though the price tag of 50 DKK might seem a bit high for just one room.

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