Hvalsey Church, Greenland

Site Overview

Stories of weddings, wars and fire

Hvalsey Church still has all four walls (standing between 4.5m and 6m high), as well as the openings for two windows and three entrances. It was attached to a farm which was occupied from the 11th century through to the 15th century. This building is thought to be from the 14th century, but there are remains of an earlier church underneath it. The wooden interior and the roof do not survive, but from the outside, the church looks much as it would have done until it was abandoned in the 15th century. Most signs of the associated Viking farm buildings have disappeared.

The wedding of Thorstein Olafsson and Sigrid Björnsdóttir was held at the church on 16th September, 1408. The records of this celebration (found in the 'Icelandic Annals') are the last records of Vikings living there. The couple later returned to Iceland.

There is an Inuit tradition about a war between the Norse chief Ungortoq and the Inuit leader K'aissape, during which the Inuit burnt the Vikings in their houses. However, there is no archaeological evidence of destruction by fire.

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