Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hólar--a deeply spiritual and historical place

 Hólar is a very special place in northern Iceland that captures in one spot the compelling history of the Icelandic people, the country's natural beauty, and the Icelandic character. The centerpiece in a beautiful valley is the cathedral, which was 
originally established in the 11th century, a recently built tower, and the university. The magnificently preserved cathedral countains an exquisite altarpiece from the 1500s, a life size crucifix from the same period, and many other pieces. These items bring to life different aspects of Iceland's history: the reformation, Danish rule, the first printing press and its role in preserving the language, the role of the church in education, and Iceland's rapid ascent in the community of nations since independence.

Hólar University College - the American connection

It was my great pleasure to meet Erla Björk Örnolfsdóttir, Rector of Hólar University College, during my visit. The school focuses on aquaculture and fish biology, equine studies and tourism. While the school dates back centuries as an educational institution, it only recently became a full fledged university. It is clear that Erla's energy and creativity is going to make the school into a major institution of higher education. In fact, the school welcomed American scholar Catherine Chambers to conduct a major studies of fisheries in Iceland. I was also pleased to learn that Erla is a fan of country and western music, which she picked up at while earning her PhD at Texas A&M.