Christ the King Cathedral in Reykjavik
The Cathedral's History, Architecture & Church Objects
Around 1918, the congregation of the Montfortians decided to embark on the construction of a church in neo-Gothic style, according to the drawings of the Icelandic architect Guðjón Samúelsson.
The church was completed in 1929 and consecrated on July 23, same year. Following that, Marteinn Meulenberg, who was the head of the mission and initiated the construction of the church, was ordained the first Catholic bishop in Iceland after the reformation.
For a long time, the Cathedral of Christ the King was the country’s largest church. Once, Meulenberg was asked if the church was not too big for such a small congregation (which counted about 130 people). He replied that within a few years no one would talk about how big the church was, but rather asking why he had not built an even bigger church.
The Church is dedicated to Jesus Christ, eternal God and King and bears the name CHRIST THE KING in honour of Christs Lordship of the Universe. The church is under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of God, Saint Joseph, Saint Thorlac and Jón Ögmundarson.
It´s three church bells are dedicated to Christ the King, Our Lady and Saint Joseph.
On the occasion of the celebration “Christianity for 1000 Years in Iceland”, in the year 2000, the cathedral was honoured with the title of “Basilica”, the only one in Northern Europe.
Pope Pius XI gave several gifts to the cathedral, including the statue of Christ standing on the world, which is located above the high altar. This statue is carved from cedar and is unique because the artist, named Campanya from Barcelona, gave instructions that no copies were to be made.
In the aisle on the left hand side as one enters the nave, can be seen a statue of the patron saint of Iceland, St. Thorlac, 1133 – 1193. He was canonized locally in 1198. On the 14th of January 1984, Pope John Paul II declared Thorlac to be Icelands patron. This statue was blessed on the 20th of July 1995, which is his summer feast day. On this date in 1198 his relics were enshrined in the cathedral at Skálholt. The shrine was destroyed during the Reformation. He is honoured both on the 20th of July and the 23rd of December.
The Stations of the Cross were given to the church in 1976 by Dr. Rudolf Graber, bishop of Regensburg, Germany. They were painted in Bavaria about 100 years ago.
On the left of the sanctuary can be seen an Icelandic medieval wooden statue of the Holy Mother and Child. It is believed to be from the 14th century and was donated to the Catholic Church in 1926. When Pope John Paul II visited Iceland in 1989, he crowned the statue.
All the three altars in the cathedral had been in the old church which was dedicated in 1897. The crucifix and the bishops chair were carved by the Icelandic artist Ríkharður Jónsson.
Outside the cathedral is a bust of Bishop Meulenberg, 1872 – 1941, who was responsible for the building of the cathedral.
On the left hand side, as one approaches the Cathedral, can be seen a monument to the work of the Order of Saint Joseph’s Sisters of Chambéry, for the Sick and Children, in Iceland. It was unveiled on the 17 September 2000. The title is “Köllun” which can be translated as “Calling”or “Vocation”. The Saint Joseph Sisters ran schools and hospitals. They worked in Iceland for over a hundred years, but they finally left the country in 2001.