St. Olaf's Church Kirkjubour

From THE CATHEDRAL and other Historic Relics at KIRKJUBOUR.
Published by Foroya Fornminnissavn. 1989
Simon V. Arge is credited asa the author of the first article in the booklet. Translated by Shiela Arnskov.

The Parish Church (Olav's Church or Mary's Church)
This is the only mediaeval church which is still in use in the Faroes. The building, which is constructed of rough unhewn stone, plastered and white-washed, is noteworthy in that it is very long in relation to the width. Churches of this type, particularly cloister churches, were built in the Nordic countries about 1250-1300. The parish church is situated right at the shore, but this has not always been the case. As has already been said, the land below the church has been much wider, but the sea has washed away much of it and today only the northern part of the churchyard remains. From historical sources we know that in the 15th century the sea was eating into the churchyard. In 1863 the church had to be closed as it was feared that the south wall would fall into the sea, and at that time the construction of a new church was considered. The outcome was that a bulwark was built in front of the foreshore, and in 1874 the church was repaired and greatly altered. But when reconstruction was carried out in 1966-67, the church regained its former appearance, which it has now.

The parish church in Kirkjubour is a little cathedral. Investigations have revealed that it has had a choir which was as big as the nave. There has probably been a dividing wall in the middle of the church between the choir and the nave, and the choir has been panelled. The bishop, priests from the other islands, and other church men have sat in the choir and the fine furniture, e.g. the beautifully wrought stalls (Kirkjubostólar), at present in the National Museum in Copenhagen , may well have stood in this choir in Catholic times. Copies of these stalls can be seen in the museum in Torshavn. After the Reformation when the church was converted to a parish church, the sides of these beautifully carved stalls and others were used as  pew ends in the body of the church, where all the congregation now sat. In 1874 these mediaeval church treasures were removed from the church, as it was decided that they had become museum pieces. Most were sent to the National Museum in Copenhagen, some were retained in the Faroes and placed in the Faroese Museum of Antiquities when it was established in 1898.
At the time of the reconstruction in the 1960s, archaeological investigations were carried out. A bishop's grave was found inside the choir. At the western end there has been a smaller building on the north side, perhaps a porch, where, according to a 17th century source, there was a Catholic altar. Under the church there are remains that could well belong to an older church, e.g. paving and three layers of mediaeval flooring. Five coins were found in these layers, the oldest minted in 1222-35 was in the lowest layer. The others are of considerably later date -after 1447. An old graveyard goes in under the west part of the church. The graves are considered to be from the Middle Ages. So it is not inconceivable that there has been another church in close proximity to this one. Within the present churchyard, directly west from the church, there are remains of a large building, perhaps of a dwelling house, which has stood sloping towards the sea, so that most of it has been washed away. The building appears to have the curved long walls that are characteristic of buildings from Viking and early mediaeval times in this country.

It seems that the above account was written by Simon V. Arge who was known for his antipathy towards the idea of any Irish involvement in Faroese Christianity. In the entire booklet on Kirkjubour there is no mention of St Brendan, except the depiction of Brandansvik on the map