AND AN ICELANDIC WEDDING
This beautiful little wooden church, painted black with pitch to protect it from the harsh Icelandic elements, is situated in the western part of Iceland on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. It was here that my daughter and her fiance announced they had chosen for their wedding. To say that we were dumbfounded is an understatement. Iceland is about as far away from Australia as you can get and I had never heard of Budir or Snaefellsnes! Lots of research was undertaken, guests informed so arrangements could be made, bookings and reservations confirmed ….. and then Covid interrupted the best made plans. Fast forward two years later and we found ourselves – a much smaller group – in this surreal, dreamlike landscape.
The Snaefellsnes area is west of Bogarfjordur in the western part of Iceland and about two hours from Reykjavik by road. It has been named “Iceland in Miniature” because so many national sites can be found in the area. It is surrounded by sea with beautiful cliff formations, small picturesque fishing villages, waterfalls and endless lava fields. These were new to me and in fact are the result of eruptions for thousands of years. The lava cooled forming rocks which eventually became covered in moss. The Black Church sits in the middle of a lava field which is known as Budahraun and there is a huge diversity of plant life, and to my amazement, beautiful ferns.
Originally the main function of Budir was to act as a fishing and trade hub for the region during the Danish trade monopoly. Today it is a tiny hamlet with only the church and a hotel close by. The first church was built in 1703 and at that time 120 people lived in the hamlet. The church was made of turf and over time fell into disrepair and was finally abolished by royal letter in 1816 due to its condition. We heard the story of a widow, Steinunn Sveinsdottir, who lived in Budir in the mid 19th Century and she applied for permission from the Church authorities to rebuild at Budir. They declined so she led and paid for the erection of the wooden church that is there today. It was finished in 1848 and a plaque claims the church was built without the help of the “Fathers”, in other words, without any help from the Lutheran Church. Steinunn died in 1854 aged 77 and she is buried in the cemetery next to the church where we saw her gravestone. The church and the story serves as a reminder of the strong Icelandic woman and her determination.
We checked into the Hotel Budir which was fabulous. A lovely country hotel with breathtaking views of the Snaefellsjokull glacier and the Budir estuary which meanders into Faxafloi Bay where a number of seals reside and we spent joyous moments watching them frolic just outside the lounge windows and settling on the little beach below.
The Hotel has a wonderful restaurant which is apparently one of the best in Iceland. We had only just arrived in the country so had no comparisons really but what we found was absolutely amazing and the menu was varied and consisted of local produce. The staff went out of their way to help and the wedding reception was beautiful. The private dining room used for functions was on the first floor and had wonderful views.
The hotel is a 3 minute walk to the church which stands on a hill and the views are stunning. The morning of the wedding dawned bright and sunny but by late afternoon clouds had formed throwing the area in a different light. No matter where you looked, the scenery was magical.
Inside the church the guests settled on the tiny, narrow wooden pews and enjoyed the simplicity and folk art. The priest, a Lutheran Pastor from a nearby town, was welcoming and conducted the service in English but also read a poem and a text in Icelandic which somehow made this occasion unique quite apart from the setting. He also had a sense of humour which helped everyone relax.
Obviously this place is a photographer’s dream and the photos later were taken with both the mountains in the background as well as the glacier, the little church yard, the gates and the rock wall and endless lava fields.
This area of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula will always be in my heart and the little Black Church and it’s legends will remain with us all forever.