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Cemetery Hólavallagarður  
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Startpage : Cemeteries : Cemetery Hólavallagarður

The cemetery at Hólavallagarður

Hólavallagarður Cemetery is situated in the western part of Reykjavík at Suðurgata - see Map 24 - and is three hectares in area.  The cemetery was consecrated in 1838 and its ‘guardian' is Guðrún Oddsdóttir. In 1932 all plots had been allocated and burials may now take place only in reserved plots.


Note: It is now possible to bury urns in graves that already have a coffin, with the permission of the licensee.  This has increased in past years.  In this way, a family may share a graveyard.


There are many intriguing tombstones in the cemetery and there is a specially made square with samples of old gravestones to be found here.  Memorial plots for French and Faeroese sailors are to be found in this ancient cemetery. Bell tower in the cemetery by Suðurgata Street


In 2007 Congresswoman Ásta Ragnheiður Jóhannesdóttir moved a parliamentary resolution for the preservation of Hólavallagarður that ran as follows: ‘Parliament votes to give the Minister of the Environment the right to nominate a committee to work at ensuring the preservation, development and publicising of the environmental and cultural heritage of the cemetery at Suðurgata, Hólavallagarður.'

Viewing gravestones
Since the beginnings of civilization, gravestones of wonderfully varied sorts have been set up, creating today a record of culture far back in time. There is a great flora of gravestones, with a variety of inscriptions, in the cemetery by Suðurgata. The section on viewing gravestones reveals a few examples. It is proper to remind every visitor of paragraphs 16-20 in the "Rules on traffic and activities in the cemeteries of Reykjavík and all their properties," which detail standards for gravestones and care of gravesites at Capital Area Cemeteries, KGRP.
Enjoying the vegetation and birdwatching
No trees were planted in the cemetery by Suðurgata street until after 1900; moreover, there was not much planting until between the World Wars. The main species in the cemeteries are birch (Betula) and two types of rowan, Sorbus aucuparia and Sorbus intermedia. There are numerous spruce trees of the type Picea sitchensis and poplar trees of the type Populus trichocarpa, along with larch, Larix, members of the willow genus, Salix, and various other kinds of bushes.

Excerpt from a history of the cemetery by Suðurgata, in the book Minningarmörk í Hólavallagarði, by the art scholar Björn Th. Björnsson.

Björn Th. Björnsson, art scholar, wrote the book Minningarmörk í Hólavallagarði in 1988, when the cemetery by Suðurgata was celebrating its 150th birthday. Minningarmörk might be translated as "marks of remembrance," Björn calling the cemetery the "largest and oldest museum in Reykjavík," where "a living exhibition and history opens itself to anyone who can read the hand of the sculptor and discern from symbols and types of font the thoughts and deeds of the dead."

The book describes how Icelanders used to believe that the first person to be buried in a new cemetery would become its "guardian." That person's body would not rot, but serve to watch over those arriving later. In this case it was Guðrún Oddsdóttir, the latter wife of the magistrate Þórður Jónassen, who was first buried in the cemetery then associated with Hólavallagarður, later with Suðurgata.

The author has given his permission to publish several chapters from the book here. As the editor of this home page believes, it can be educational to look back into the conditions reigning here around the year 1800.


Excerpt from the book "Minningarmörk í Hólavallagarði," a history of the cemetery by Suðurgata