1000 Years of Christianity
Christianity was adopted by law in Iceland in 999 or 1000. The church quickly acquired great strength in the political and cultural life of the nation. Two bishoprics, as well as monasteries throughout the country, became important centres of culture and had a powerful part to play in the blooming of Icelandic culture during the period known as the saga-writing age. Icelanders were known throughout the Nordic countries for what appears to have been a pretty general interest in sagas and skaldic verse: saga recitals and poetry have been a popular amusement throughout the ages.
The well-known scholar, Sigurður Nordal, made the following remarks about the spiritual life of Icelanders in 1940 during a lecture on religious matters:
As far as I can tell, Christianity is burning out amongst the general public. If its influence develops in the same fashion in the next 60 years as the past 60 years, it will have its birthday in 2000 standing in about the same position as it was after the advice given by Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði, except that disinterest will be even greater, as in 1000 the Alþing was at least quarrelling about it.
The Celebration of Christianization at Þingvellir in 2000
A festival to celebrate the Christianization was held at Þingvellir in the summer of 2000, marking the passing of 1000 years since Icelanders took on Christian belief. The expectation was that a great crowd of people would come and preparations were made that were appropriate if a substantial part of the people took part in the festivities. A great deal of expense went into making the most brilliant celebration. Yet only a fraction of the population rushed to Þingvellir on the day of the Christian festival and, consequently, the cost per person was enormous. This caused considerable dissatisfaction and a lot of talk followed about the event. A large number of newspaper articles appeared which gave support to the celebration, with those who opposed it divided in their views. So, Sigurður Nordal was not altogether right in his prediction. Certainly, there was quarrelling about Christianity on its 1000th anniversary, although the discussion touched, first and foremost, on the issue of how much was spent on the celebration rather than on the Christian belief a such.