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Stirling, Leifur, & Hallgrímskirkja

Updated: Jan 15, 2020

A highlight for visitors to Reykjavík is the tall bronze Leifur Eiríksson statue and the massive Hallgrímskirkja (Hallgrim’s church). It is the largest church in Iceland.

In 1929, the U.S. Congress authorized a statue of Leifur Eiríksson be given to the people of Iceland on the 1000th anniversary of the Alþingi. The statue was placed in Reykjavik on 03 May 1932. Five years later, planning began for a church. Construction began in 1945. Forty-one years later, in 1986, the church was completed. The statue faces west toward the Atlantic Ocean and Greenland. An exact replica was created for the 1939 World’s Fair held in New York. The Eiríksson Memorial Committee of the United States and the Icelandic National League of the United States commissioned a copy of the original sculpture to be placed in front of the Icelandic Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. The statue now resides at the Mariners Museum in Newport News, Virginia.

Leifur Eiríksson was born in Iceland and the son of Eirik the Red, a Norwegian who had settled in Iceland after being banished from Norway. Interestingly, Eiríkur was also banished from Iceland and sailed to Greenland.

Many Leifur Eiríksson statues are in North America including the one pictured below in Minot, North Dakota. Here is a list from the Leif Erikson Organization

The Reykjavík and Virginia statues are the work of USA sculptor, Alexander Stirling Calder. January is the anniversary of his birth and death dates.

He won a national design competition to create the monumental Leifur statue. Alexander Stirling Calder (11 Jan 1870 – 07 Jan 1945) was born to a sculptor, Alexander Milne Calder who designed the amazing City Hall in Philadelphia. In addition to the Leifur statue in Reykjavík, A. Stirling Calder carved George Washington as President on the Washington Square Arch and many other projects.

We are interested in more information about the “Icelandic National League of the United States,” please contact us with details. I hope you enjoyed learning more about the various Leifur statues and Stirling Calder. Have a wonderful day.

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