What’s Thingvellir?

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Thingvellir is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Iceland, where the Althing, one of the world’s oldest parliaments, was first convened in 930. It remained the meeting place until the end of the 18th century and was revived in the mid-19th century. Visitors can also see the Drowning Pool and nearby sites such as Skalholt Church, Geyser Hot Springs, Kevid Crater, and Gullfoss waterfalls.

Thingvellir is a historic valley in Iceland. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has been since 2004. The valley is where Iceland’s first parliament was convened and the site where independence was declared.
The Althing was Iceland’s parliament, and is among the oldest parliaments in the world, along with the Manx Tynwald and the Faroese Logting. The word Althing simply means Everything, reflecting its importance as an embodiment of all of Iceland.

The Althing was first summoned in the year 930 at Thingvellir. This assembly at Thingvellir represents the founding of Iceland as a Commonwealth, and would continue uninterrupted until its union with Norway. Even during the time of the union, Thingvellir remained the meeting place of Althing, until the end of the 18th century, when it was suppressed. It met again in the mid-19th century, although it moved from Thingvellir to the capital Reykjavik, and has been held there ever since.

A number of historic events have taken place in Thingvellir. One of the most influential in Icelandic history was a convocation of the Althing in the year 1000. At this meeting, Thorgeir Ljosvetningagodi declared Christianity the official religion of all of Iceland. After leaving Thingvellir, he destroyed the statues of the Norse gods all over the country and threw them into the so-called waterfall of the gods, Godafoss.

The summoning of the Althing to Thingvellir was a popular event. All the various lords of Iceland would come together to decide new laws, discuss matters of the realm, and pass judgments. The public was also invited to participate, and the meeting at Thingvellir became something of a folk fair, attracting people from all over the country to enjoy themselves and hear their leaders speak.

Visitors to Thingvellir can also view the Drekkingarhylur, or Drowning Pool, which is located near the site. At the summoning of the Althing, the Lawgiver read the laws of the land to all present and brought justice to transgressors. Women convicted of a capital crime were drowned in the Drekkingarhylur.

A visit to Thingvellir is a must for anyone visiting Iceland. It is a place of astonishing natural beauty, as a result of two great plates meeting and forming an immense plain, and it would be hard to find a site with more historical weight. Standing on that plain, one can easily imagine the world’s first truly modern parliament meeting over a thousand years ago, meeting as a Commonwealth to work for the common good.
Within easy reach for a day trip to Thingvellir are a number of other notable Icelandic sites which are well worth a visit. Skalholt Church, the namesake Geyser Hot Springs and Kevid Crater and the majestic Gullfoss waterfalls.

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