Temporary Exhibitions and Events

Churches of Iceland: Ornamenta et instrumenta. Developments and trends

Exhibition opening, 24 November 2018 at the National Museum of Iceland.

After nearly two decades of work in research and publishing of the book series Kirkjur Íslands (Churches of Iceland), the National Museum holds the exhibition Skrúði og áhöld. Straumar og stefnur (Ornamenta et instrumenta. Developments and trends). The research involved in the preparation of the Churches of Iceland series has given rise to a new and remarkable perspective on ecclesiastical objects and vestments in Iceland’s listed historical churches.

The exhibition will showcase objects from churches around the country, and others from the Museum’s collection, which have not been on public display. The exhibits will be in dialogue with those which remain in the churches, and there will also be reference to objects in the National Museum’s permanent exhibition, which displays the greatest treasures in the collection. Also to be included in the exhibition are Icelandic ecclesiastical objects which were sent to Denmark in the 19th century, and are in the collection of the National Museum of Denmark.

For centuries Iceland’s churches were the nation’s only art galleries: churches commissioned works of art, or purchased them from makers in Iceland and abroad. Extant ecclesiastical objects reflect the history of Iceland’s international trading relations. The exhibits date from different periods, providing insight into the tastes and aesthetics of different times.  The diversity and artistic and cultural importance of these objects has become ever clearer as the publication of the Churches of Iceland series has progressed. Many of the objects are the work of Icelandic craftspeople, throwing light on the folk art of past centuries.

The exhibition in the Arc Hall at the National Museum will explore the diversity and styles of the ecclesiastical objects, and their relationship with international trends in the arts. The exhibition is intended to open the way to further research in Icelandic art history.