Below the mountain of Sámsstaðamúli in Þjórsárdalur (Þjórsárdalur) in Southern Iceland lies the medieval farm, Þjóðveldisbærinn (Thjóthveldisbaerinn). It is a reconstruction of the houses at the nearby 12th-century farm of Stöng. The farm was constructed as a replica of Stöng farm as a part of the celebrations for the 1100th anniversary of the settlement of Iceland, celebrated in 1974. Þjóðveldisbærinn is a historical venue exhibiting examples of medieval Icelandic handicrafts and technology. Þjóðveldisbærinn is open to visitors throughout the summer from June to September.
Rising Out of Volcanic Ash
The Stöng farm was excavated in 1939 by a team of Nordic archeologists. Stöng farm revealed much about the construction of the structures and buildings on medieval farms in Iceland. However, just when and why the farm was deserted is something of a mystery. The Hekla volcano violently erupted in the year 1104, spewing ash and lava and it is thought that, on this occasion, Þjórsárdalur with its 20 farms was deserted. However, some doubt has recently been cast on this chronology, with new evidence coming to light that seems to point to the Stöng farm and others continuing to be in operation after this event. Therefore it cannot be excluded that the next eruptions in Hekla in 1158 or even in 1300, may have led to Þjórsárdalur being abandoned.Celebrating 1100-Year Anniversary of Icelandic Settlement
During the preparations for the anniversary of the 1100-year settlement of Iceland, well-known architect Hördur Ágústsson, the foremost expert on pre-modern housing in Iceland, was commissioned to reconstruct a full-scale replica of the Stöng farm. Ágústsson agreed and construction began during the year of celebrations, 1974 and was completed in 1977. Þjóðveldisbærinn was built to demonstrate that the medieval settlers in Iceland did not inhabit dirty hovels but lived in carefully built and stately buildings. The project was sponsored in part by the Prime Minister’s office, the state power company and by the local municipality, Gnúpverjahreppur.
Skeljastaðir, Another Medieval Farm
Þjóðveldisbærinn is close to another long-abandoned medieval farm, Skeljastaðir (Skeljastadir). Skeljastaðir presents a classic example of medieval Icelandic architecture. The main building has six rooms: the entrance; a sleeping and working room, called the skáli; the living room; the storage room, likely used as a pantry; a small chamber (probably sleeping room for the master and mistress of the farm) and a toilet room. Two of these rooms form the hub of activity on the farm, the skali and the living room. Although it was also used as sleeping quarters, the skáli was important, as all manner of tasks were conducted there. The living room was also a multi-purpose space, where the women wove, cared for the children and served the meals.The Turf Church
Visitors to Þjóðveldisbærinn can also visit the turf church, the most recently reconstructed building on the farm. Erected to celebrate the 1,000-year anniversary of Christianity in Iceland. The design of the church was based on a church which was found during archeological research in Stöng in 1986-1998. Remains of several other medieval churches were also used to design the replica. It was ordained in the year 2000.
More information (only in Icelandic, but with pictures and maps) can be found at www.thjodveldisbaer.is