After visiting those mighty coastal Faroese cliffs, our next stop was at the tiny settlement of Kirkjubour on the west coast of Streymoy Island. This is the southern most village of The Faroes and the country’s most important historical site.
In the Middle Ages, this village was the spiritual centre of the Faroe Islands. At that time, it is said to have had about 50 houses but the majority of these were washed away by a fierce storm in the 16th century. Now there is just a huddle of stone, timber and sod roofed private homes like the one above. Red is the common door and window colour here.
There are three main historic buildings to visit here. From left to right: the oldest still inhabited wooden house in the world; the ruins of the Magnus Cathedral, now a world heritage site; and the oldest still in use church in the Faroes.
Let’s begin with the house. Some of you may have seen the episode of the English TV program called ‘Coast’ in which the team visited a very old Faroese farm house in Kirkjubour called ‘Roykstovan’ – the King’s Farm. This is it!
Part of this house dates back to 1550 and has been lived in continuously for no less than eighteen generations of the one family… and still is lived in today, part home, part museum. I had been intrigued by the documentary and now I had the wonderful privilege of not only visiting the house but also of meeting the mother of the present owner.
This charming old building dates back to the 11th century. It’s made of timber which is said to have come drifting, quite unintentionally, across the seas from Norway. The ship that was carrying it to some other long forgotten destination sank, and the cargo of timber was washed up by the Gulf Stream to this natural ‘collection point’ in the fiord.
The turfed roof is an ancient form of building in the Faroes, and is designed both to provide insulation and to withstand Atlantic storms and, judging by the fact that houses have been washed away in storms, those storms must be very fierce.
We had the decided pleasure of being entertained by Solva Patursson, the mother of the present owner of the house.
The head of the Patursson family (now Solva’s son since the death of her husband) is the King’s Yeoman on The Faroes and this beautifully carved pole is his staff of office.
Solva told us stories of her family and the house as we were served coffee and biscuits in the living room. It is decorated with period furniture and portraits of previous generations of the family. The bureau(above) is 17th century. There’s also a piano built in 1858. I expect, and hope, that it was much used to entertain the family during the long dark winters experienced in the Faroes. I was glad to be there in the summer – I don’t relish the thought of winters spent here.
Many objects in the house are made from timber salvaged from ships which came to grief on the nearby rocks. The top of the long wooden table in the kitchen / living area was once a cargo hatch upon which Anders, a shipwrecked German, drifted ashore in 1895.
This room, called the Roykstovan, dates back to around 1100. It has a smoke opening in the ceiling. This was the original smoke house, the centre of much of the activity of the farm.
One can only wonder at the number of cups of tea that have been produced by this old kettle over the years – and the number and content of the stories told whilst those cups of tea were enjoyed. And what about that flat iron! Makes one grateful for modern appliances!
This red door with carvings of a Norwegian lion, is a replica, carved by Joannes Patursson in 1907. It now adorns the front of the old house. The original red door, was formerly inside between the Log Room and the Ball Room. It was destroyed by officials in 1833.
On one wall of this house, which was originally the bishop’s house, is a very old representation of Bishop Erlender who was responsible for the building of Magnus Cathedral, Magnuskatedralurin, in around 1300. That building, just below the house, is now World Heritage listed. It probably served as the official cathedral of the Faroes until the reformation.
The whitewashed St Olav’s Church (‘Olavskirkjan’) was built in the 12th century and is the only church from the middle ages still used in the Faroe Islands.
The Magnus Cathedral is set between the house and the church. Referred to as ‘Mururin’ (the wall), it was built around year 1300. It’s not known if the building was ever actually completed. Today there is only the 1½-meter thick wall remaining covered by a temporary roof, put there to protect the building until there’s money enough to restore the building properly.
There’s a model of the Magnus Cathedral (kept in the house) showing how it once looked with it’s stain glass windows.
St Olav’s is till used as the village Parish Church. Between 1962 and 1967 it was restored and it smelled of an even more recent repaint when we were there! The altar piece is modern – a painting of Christ watching over a boat full of men painted in 1967 by a Faroese artist, S J Mikines.
On a wall of the house is this likeness of Sverri Kongur. The story goes that in the year 1151 a little boy was born in a cave above Kirkjubøur. He would grow to be King Sverre of Norway – but before that he was educated here and became a clergyman in this church. His name has been carried on by others in this village – like Solva’s late husband.
Over the centuries, the people who have inhabited this village have been buried in this area. The stone, centre front of this photo, is for Solva’s husband, Pall Sverri Patursson, who lived from 1944 to 2004. His son is now the head of the Patursson family and he proudly continues the traditions and keeps this place a special place in the Faroe’s history. D
ALL PHOTOGRAPHY COPYRIGHT © DY of jtdytravels