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  - September 1999. no. 5

LEIF    ERIKSSON

Leif Ericson, Reykjavik, Iceland.
  "He (Leif) at once began preaching Christianity and the Catholic faith throughout the country; he revealed to the people King Olaf Tryggvason's message, telling them what excellence and what glory there was in this faith. Erik was reluctant to abandon his old religion; but his wife, Thjodhild, was converted at once, and she had a church built not too close to the farmhouse. This building was called Thjodhild's Church".
(Excerpt from Erik's Saga).

An Exact Replica
An exact replica of Thjodhild's Church is presently under construction, carried out by the Icelandic firm ÍSTAK. According to its on-site supervisor, the reconstruction is faring better than expected and the project will be wrapped up ahead of schedule. Craftsmen are completing the framework of the church while other workmen separately tile the floor. Meanwhile, completion of the reconstruction of Erik and Thjodhild's Farmhouse is due shortly afterward. Everything but the finishing touches on the buildings will be done well before their inauguration on July 16, 2000.
 

  Thjodhildur's Church
   
The Celebrations
The millennium celebrations of Leif Eriksson's discovery of America and his introduction of Christianity to Greenland the same year are to take place in mid-July, 2000. The official program is launched on July 15, 2000 with the arrival of the Viking ship "Íslendingur" to Qassiarsuk - Brattahlid, where kayaks, song and dance lead numerous festivities welcoming the ship and its crew. In the evening, the citizens of Qassiarsuk - Brattahlid throw a barbecue for locals and visitors alike. The Viking ship continues on to sail in Leif's famed wake between Greenland and America.

Sunday, July 16 begins with the dedications of Thjodhild's Church and Erik the Red's Farmhouse. Following a luncheon for official guests, a new play revolving around the millennium celebrations sees its first ever performance. The day ends with a gala-banquet in Narsarsuaq.

July 17 is dedicated to religious activities in the former Norse Bishop's residence and Cathedral in Igaliku/Gardar. The 1000th anniversary of Christianity in this part of the world is marked by a procession of people dressed in old Norse garments, a worship service and choir-singing. The day also features lectures and tours to the impressive Norse ruins, among them the Cathedral.

Restorations of the Ruins
Thorough restoration work on the existing ruins has been part of both the Greenlandic and Danish National Museums' work schedules over the last couple of years and it continues well into the millennium celebration year. The Hvalsey Church ruin has undergone extensive restoration work. Among other accomplishments, this effort has ensured that the walls are no longer in danger of collapsing. All this is a result of a cooperative effort on the part of numerous entities to ensure adequate funding for completion of the work. Congratulations are in order for everyone involved in this major achievement!
The ruins of Erik the Red's home village, Qassiarsuk, have likewise undergone extensive restoration, and this work will continue in the years to come. The remaining walls will be sealed with turf, an ancient building technique - with a side-benefit of allowing today's visitor a better perspective regarding true size and shape.
The farmstead in Narsaq and especially the ruins at Igaliku will also undergo extensive restoration during the years to come. A detailed plan for repair of these long neglected ruins, the preservation of the oldest buildings in the village and an overall propagation of the area's history has recently been put together, based on detailed registration work and documentation.

A Gift from the United States
During a visit to Seattle last spring, the Project Leader was presented with an idea from a group of enthusiasts - descendants of Scandinavians all. The group calls itself the Leif Eriksson International Foundation, or "LEIF". The idea was to donate to Greenland a replica of a statue of Leif Eriksson that already stands in Seattle. And so they did. That same group had donated another duplicate of the statue to Trondheim during that Norwegian town's recent 1000th anniversary. (Leif's father, Erik the Red, was actually born in Norway.) Greenland's own statue will be unveiled during the millennium festivities.

A film team from Washington DC
A television crew from the USA was recently on location in South Greenland shooting a documentary on the life of Leif Eriksson to be aired across the United States on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service). It is one of the first major documentaries in the world to be shot in HDTV (High Definition Television). It is also to be part of a 3-year-long traveling exhibit of the Smithsonian Institution.

Study Tour
The "Leif 2000" working group from South Greenland was in Iceland at the end of May and met with organizations and committees in Iceland also preparing to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of Leif's discovery of America. (Leif was actually born in Iceland, yet grew up in Greenland.) An Icelandic Committee is currently rebuilding Erik the Red's village in Hvammsfjördur in West Iceland. Greenland and Iceland have established close cooperation regarding the use and operation of re-erected buildings of mutual historic interest such as the ones in Qassiarsuk and Hvammsfjördur.

A Booth at Iceland's Keflavík Airport
This past June, Greenland Tourism set up a booth at Iceland's Leifur Eiríksson International Airport terminal building in Keflavík to create for the traveling public an awareness of Greenland in general and of Greenland's millennium events in particular. Almost one and a half million travelers go through that airport annually. Greenland's booth is very visible and has understandably aroused considerable awareness and interest about Greenland on the part of the traveling public. An idea whose time has come!

  Benedikte Thorsteinsson, Project Manager.


 

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