Sunday, 2 January 2022

Kirkjubøur and Saksun - Faroese historic houses and museum

Starting 2022 on a northern Island !

No palaces, castles or medieval towns are to be expected in the Faroe Islands; these were until half a century ago a quite backward place, seldom visited by fishing vessels; most communities lived on fishing and sheep herding, just above subsistence mode, under millenary traditions and ways of life; but that is also what makes the Faroe a large Museum as a whole: the most authentic past of the Faroe can be seen in its Historic Houses, mainly the farm sets in Kirkjubøur and Saksun on Streymoy Island, the largest and most populated (~25 000 hab.) and also one of the most amazingly beautiful.

Stremoy is around latitude 62º N, and has a northwest-southeast extension of 42 km by 10 km wide. An almost treeless* island, covered with green grass pastures, Streymoy has a network of roads and bridges to serve the capital and some coastal villages.

Kirkjubøur is located on the southernmost tip of the island, a few meters above the sea; presently some 70 people live there. It is the most important historic site  of the Faroe, the old residence of Erlendur, the viking bishop, son of King Horik of Denmark, who around 1300 AD ordered the building of the magnificent Magnus Catedral, from wich only walls remain - or maybe only some walls were built. With Erlandur, christianisation began on the islands, until then submitted to Norway and the Norse cult.

The walls of the Cathedral testify the importance of the Diocese of the Faroe and its episcopy in Kirkjubøur, whose residence had a special dignity: Kirkjubøargarður, the farm at Kirkjubøur, was built around 1100.

Roykstovan is the oldest house, maybe even older then 1100 AD. In the photo above St. Olav's Church is also visible, closer to the sea; a runic stone is the only valuable found exhibited inside.

One of the world's oldest inhabited wooden houses.

The rampant lion with an axe, indicating submission to the Viking Kingdom of Norway.

There were no trees on the islands then, wood came from Norway, mostly - they say - as driftwood on the beach. The older parts of the house are the roykstova (smoking room) and loftstovan (attic), now a small library.

The Roykstova is the communal room, for work as well as for dining, the largest in the house; a hole in the roof was provided to let out the smoke and grease from the hearth and ovens.

The library in the attic, where bishop Erlandur used to retire to work.

Kirkjubøargarður farm houses belong to the State but are partially rented to the
 Patursson family, who have lived there since 1550, and at present occupy the most recent building, while taking care of the whole, which has been classified as heritage site.

The most recent complex dates from the 16th/17th centuries.

A room from the Patursson family house.

Saksun , on the northwestern coast of Streymoy, is a very small farm village by a lake. It was before a sea inlet between mountains and a sheltered harbour; but a violent storm blocked its entrance with sand and so a salt water lagoon was born, with no access from the sea.

Saksun is now a picturesque village, a few grass roofed houses around a herding farm from the 17th century, renovated as a museum -the Dúvugarður. A fine example of what Faroese country life looked like.

Inside we can see tools and furniture in ts original setting.

The glasstova (glass room) is the only room with a glass window. There they slept, worked and had their meals.

The room is warmed by a coal stove fed with embers from a hole through the wall:


* Since a few years ago a small forest and some scattered trees were successfully planted on the Faroe.


Mister Twister said...

I personally prefer to think there WERE trees on islands such as this, but they disappeared during cold periods (such as Year Without Summer), when people cut down as many as possible to keep warm, and some trees would simply die after not not acclimatizing fast enough. Iceland is a good example of people initially cutting down most of what was there.

Oh, and the runestone probably reads "Osvald was here".

Mário R. Gonçalves said...

Hello, Mister Twister my old friend if I may call you so. Thank you, your comments are a must and an added value.

I don't have any source to search about tree covering in the Faroe Islands in BCE times. All reports from the Viking era and later lead to a land bare of trees, all wood coming from the sea as driftwood. But maybe it happened as in Iceland, and trees were terminated by natives. Anyway, there are lots of planted trees in Tórshavn town nowadays!

Soon a new post will follow, thanks to visitors like you. Keep healthy and cosy and travel as you can !

ZCrista said...

Mário, muitíssimo obrigada!
Sempre, sempre a desafiar, brilhantemente, a nossa "apatia" . . .

Beijinho e parabéns!

Mário R. Gonçalves said...

Olá Maria José, obrigado por vires até aqui, tenho-me desleixado neste blog. Dá notícias ! Abraço.