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Bishop Guðmundur Góði á Hólar

Updated: Apr 26, 2021

777 years ago on March 16, 1237, Bishop Guðmundur Góði Arason (Gudmundur the Good) died at about 76 years of age.. He was ordained a priest in 1185 at 24-years-old and elected Bishop of Hólar in 1203. This is one of my favorite places in Iceland. The photo is his statue in Hólar.

Bishop Guðmundur Arason

Bishop Guðmundur Arason

Bishop Guðmundur performed over forty miracles and six were contending with demons. He was very generous with the Church's holdings to assist his countrymen. People heard about him and after a short time, many poor people came to Hólar for Guðmundur's charity.

The local chieftains became very angry with Guðmundur's over-generosity. He had many disputes with the local chieftains through his years as a bishop. The Sturlunga Saga tells us that in 1221, Guðmundur was driven away from Hólar during advent and he spent a few months with his followers on an island called Málmey in the Skagafjörður Bay. An ancient spell was placed on the island so no mice or horses can live on Málmey. No married couple can live there longer than 20 years or the wife will disappear.


An Icelandic legend says that evil trolls lived on the island of Drangey near the island of Málmey. Whenever men went to pick eggs or hunt birds at Drangey, they fell to their deaths. When Guðmundur became the Bishop at Hólar, he went to the island with several priests and blessed the island with holy water. He wanted the men to find food on the island and he had many hungry and poor people to feed. As they went around the island, a huge and hairy paw came out of the cliff face and started to cut their ropes but the rope was soaked in holy water.

The creature said to Guðmundur, "Stop your blessings. Even the evil need a place to live." Guðmundur did stop the blessings and he declared that area as a refuge for the evil creatures to live. Ever since, there have been fewer accidents in the island, and bird hunters and egg gatherers have been left alone. The name of the place Guðmundur did not bless is Heiðnaberg (Heathen Cliff) and no one picks eggs or hunts there.