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Kolbeinn Tumason and the Ásbirningar Clan

In the 11th and 12th centuries, the Ásbirningar Clan was the leading clan of the Skagafjörður area. Kolbeinn Tumason, IR# I136178, was one of the most powerful chieftains (goði) in Iceland. The lives of our ancestors are very interesting. This is part of the history of Iceland intertwined with such contrasts: love, hate, poetry, great deeds, and violence.

Iceland has many treasured songs and poems. Kolbeinn composed a poem on his deathbed in 1208. He died after having his head smashed with a rock. Part of the lyrics are: “God, I beg of you, heal me. Remember how great is our need of you. Almighty God, heaven’s king, wipe away human sorrow, take it from our hearts.” The music was composed by Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson, IR# I311975, over 750 years later. This video link has the text in Icelandic and English.

Kolbeinn's battle was with the Catholic Bishop of Hólar - Bishop Guðmundur “The Good” at Hólar, IR# I138506. Bishop Guðmundur survived this battle but Kolbeinn, the leader of the Ásbirningar Clan, died from this battle. Some legends say the rock that smashed Kolbeinn’s head was thrown from heaven.

Statue of Guðmundur the Good at Hólar í Skagafirði

Another big battle was between the Ábirningar clan and the Sturlung clan. The Battle of Örlygsstaðir in 1238 was the biggest battle ever in Iceland between the Sturlung Clan and the clans of the Ásbirning and Haukdælir. Historians estimate that 2000-3000 men were involved and 56 people were killed including some chieftains. The last chieftain in the Ásbirningar clan was Kolbeinn yngri (the younger) Arnórsson. He is¸the son of Arnór Tumason, the brother of Kolbeinn the chieftain. Kolbeinn yngri fought against the Sturlung Clan in the Icelandic civil war with his first cousin and chieftain, Gissur Þorvaldsson, IR# I89135. More on him later - or go to his page in the IR Database to learn more and see how you are related.

A new virtual museum in Sauðárkrókur has a tourist excursion called, "The Last Battle of the Vikings, 1238 The Battle of Iceland" Their website is Another famous battle between the Sturlungs and Ásbirningar was on 19 Apr 1246 called the Haugsnes battle. About 110 men died there including the Ásbirningar clan chieftain, Brandur Kolbeinsson. He is a descendant of Tumi Kolbeinsson's half-brother, Arnór Kolbeinsson. This battle ended their power in the Skagafjörður. After the battle, a large cross was erected on the site. Over the centuries, it disappeared and now there is a new cross there carved by our friend, Jón Adólf Steinólfsson. There is a new history and art exhibit at Kakalskáli á Kringlumýri. There you can see the staging of the Battle of Hauganes in 1246.

Battle of Haugsnes cross by Jón Adólf Steinólfsson The father of Kolbeinn and Arnór, Tumi Kolbeinsson, has about 120,000 descendants. So these famous chieftains could be your ancestor, too! Check it out in the IR Database. Tumi is my 19th Great Grandparent. He was not alive when his sons and clan members were in the battle with Bishop Guðmundur. The younger brother to Kolbeinn, Arnór, is my 18th Great Grandparent and he was 26 years old during the battle where his older brother, Kolbeinn, was killed at the age of 35. When you go to Skagafjörður, make sure that you visit these famous places in our history, exhibits, and monuments. There are so many other amazing places in Skagafjörður, too. This is just a few.

  1. Arnarstapi - a rocky mound just south of Highway 1 with a monument for Stephan G. Stephansson, IR# I187678, who emigrated to North America.

  2. Drangey - The beautiful island in the middle of the fjord with diverse birdlife

  3. Glaumbær - a museum with authentic buildings and turf house

  4. Grettislaug - Natural Hot Springs - the pool of Grettir the Strong IR# I138211

  5. Hofsós Emigration Center Website

  6. Hólar – Bishopric of the north from 1106-1801 with the statue of Bishop Guðmundur, Hólar Cathedral, Nýibær turf house, Icelandic horse History exhibit

  7. Sauðárkrókur - many things to do and see as well as golf, restaurants, bakery, and the local Safnahúsið - Héraðsskjalasafn Skagafirðinga

  8. Tindastóll - Ski area

  9. Viðines, Víðimýrikirkja Turf Church built in 1834

I have been practicing Icelandic with the children here in Hofsós who are hanging out with their parents during the Hofsós Farmer's Market - so many wonderful items for sale in the old Pakkhús.

To learn more about Bishop Guðmundur the Good and why he is considered a saint in Iceland click the red link. Hope you all enjoy learning more about Skagafjörður!


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