One of Iceland’s most interesting man-made features is the huge number of tiny church dotting the country. They’re mostly the result of the fact that Iceland has a very small population of only around 300,000 people who are very spread out once you leave the Reykjavik area, and therefore the towns were so far apart that every one needed its own church.
The churches also came in a wide variety of architectural forms, from very traditional buildings with steeples to larger, modern, cement buildings that almost looked like alien spaceships that had landed in the countryside.
One of my favorite parts of my friend and I’s trip to Iceland was stopping at these little churches to take photographs, walk through the cemeteries, and see if the doors were open to take a peek inside. Some were very well maintained with elaborate alters while others had peeling paint and little to no decoration, but they all fit in effortlessly with their surroundings.
I was also very interested in the culture surrounding these churches. While statistics show that most Icelanders consider themselves Christian, many of them do not actively practice their religion. I wondered as we drove past tiny buildings in the middle of nowhere without even a driveway connecting them to the main road to what extent the churches are attended and how active the church communities are.
I would imagine that perhaps in rural areas with only a hundred or so people in a town the church communities might be more vibrant because they would be one of the only organizations at the local level that could interact to a large degree with the community. However, I can’t say for sure.