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Over Vatnajökull and the Westman Islands »« The Víkin Maritime Museum

The Snorri Sturluson Museum in Reykholt

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One of Iceland’s most famous historic figures is Snorri Sturluson: a 13th-century author and politician who lived on a farm in Reykholt. Today, the town is home to a museum commemorating his tumultuous life and considerable achievements.

Snorri Statue

Snorri was born in 1179. He was a clever youth, always on the lookout for ways to better his situation. After establishing a relationship with the royal family of Norway, he married a very wealthy woman, whom he would regularly betray, and snatched up property all along the western coast of the island. Soon, he had established himself as one of Iceland’s leading men, and settled down in Reykholt to concentrate on writing. Snorri is best known as the author of some of the most important works in medieval Scandinavian literature, including Egil’s Saga and the Heimkringla, the story of Norway’s kings.

Little could Snorri know that a Norwegian king would also bring about his doom. King Haakon IV had designs on Iceland, and had tasked Snorri with convincing the island’s top chieftains to accept Norwegian rule. It was a job Snorri wasn’t enthusiastic about, and continuously put off. Snubbing medieval Viking kings is rarely a good move and, in 1241, a death squad sent by Haakon paid a visit to Reykholt.

The Snorri Museum, found underneath the town church, does a great job of illuminating the man’s life and accomplishments. The museum is small but thorough, with staff on-hand to answer questions. Next door is an organization called the Snorrastufa, a cultural and medieval research center which publishes books and hosts scholars. And the church which sits atop the museum is also worth a look, absurdly grand for tiny Reykholt. Turns out that Norway values Snorri as an integral part of their own history, and put up millions of krona to help build the church.

Outside the museum complex, we found the Snorralaug, Snorri’s personal hot tub. It was connected to his home by a tunnel, and hooked up to nearby hot springs by a perfectly-crafted stone aqueduct which has survived the centuries intact.

On pulling into Reykholt some hours earlier, Jürgen and I both had the same “uh-oh” reaction. The town looked too small to justify even a single day. But there’s a surprising amount to see here. Fascinating history and the gorgeous landscape of the Hvitá Valley make a winning combination.

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September 29, 2013 at 1:26 pm
6 comments »
  • September 29, 2013 at 1:58 pmMaria

    Beautiful photos of a gorgeous place.  Especially appreciate the shots showing how artifacts are reconstructed. 

    • October 4, 2013 at 10:19 amSigrun Thormar

      Hi Maria,  the artifacts in Reykholt are not reconstructions. One picture showing a wineglass is the real thing, found during excavations of Snorri Sturlusons farm, and is from the beginning of the 12 th century.  This glass was imported to Iceland from France and shows the status of Snorri and the level of his household. The bowl for baptismal water is from aprox year 1518 and still in use in the new church in Reykholt ( 1996).Snorris bath is also the real thing, and has been there since year 1000. Snorri had it rebuild when he lived in Reykholt, and it has been there ever since. welcome to Reykholt 🙂

  • October 3, 2013 at 11:54 pmJónína Eiríksdóttir

    Thank you for your wonderful website. The chapter on Reykholt was very interesting and we here in Snorrastofa, would appreciate if we might use your pictures on our website in Reykholt – with your names, linking to your web. Best wishes, Jónína Eiríksdóttir, project manager in Snorrastofa.

  • November 2, 2013 at 10:36 pmStephen Liley

    Thoroughly enjoyed the museum – we went in April 2012 and were lucky enough to be the only ones there. We rang the bell and were shown around.I am particularly interested in the life of Snorri and have written an historical novel called ‘Olaf’s Saga’ which chronicles the early Viking raids on Britain.  The story is set in Iceland some four hundred years later and essentially a tale told to Snorri by his ‘foster father’ Jon.  The book is held together by events occurring in both Oddi and Reykholt in the early part of Snorri’s life – these events (and the story he is told each evening) I speculate have an influence on the great man’s later life.I wish the museum every success and hope to visit again before too long.Steve Liley

  • November 30, 2015 at 8:26 pmKathryn Ward

    I am a descendant of Snorri Sturluson. My grandparents were Victor and Aldis Solveig Sturlaugson. My husband and I are from Minnesota and we’ll be visiting Iceland (for the first time!) in June 2016. We’re incredibly anxious to see Iceland and the Snorri Sturluson museum.  Thank you for this wonderful information, history and photos!! 


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The Snorri Sturluson Museum in Reykholt One of Iceland's most famous historic figures is Snorri Sturluson: a 13th-century author and politician who lived on a farm in Reykholt. Today, the town is home to a museum commemorating his tumultuous life and considerable achievements.
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