Garðar, Greenland

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Harvesting the hay in Vatnahverfi, Garðar
Garðar, Greenland is located in Greenland
Garðar, Greenland
Location of the site in Greenland
Location Kujalleq, Greenland
Coordinates 60°59′13.56″N 45°25′22.44″W / 60.9871000°N 45.4229000°W / 60.9871000; -45.4229000Coordinates: 60°59′13.56″N 45°25′22.44″W / 60.9871000°N 45.4229000°W / 60.9871000; -45.4229000

Garðar was the seat of the bishop in the Norse settlements in Greenland [1] and is a Latin Catholic titular see.

Diocese of Garðar[edit]

In the sagas it is told that Sokki Þórisson, a wealthy farmer of the Brattahlíð area, launched the idea of a separate bishop for Greenland in the early 12th century and got the approval of the Norwegian King (? Sigurd I Magnusson 'the Crusader', 1103–1130). Most of the clergy would come from Norway.

  • The first bishop of Garðar, Arnaldur, was ordained by the Archbishop of Lund in 1124. He arrived in Greenland in 1126. In the same year he started with the construction of the cathedral dedicated to St Nicholas, patron saint of sailors.[2]
  • The diocese was first assigned to the ecclesiastical province of the German Metropolitan Archbishopric of Bremen. The diocese of Garðar was subject to the Archdiocese of Lund (present-day Sweden) from 1126–1152. Bishop Arnaldur returned to Norway in 1150 and became bishop of Hamar (Norway) in 1152.
  • In 1152 the diocese of Greenland, as well as those of Iceland, the Isle of Man, the Orkney Islands and the Faroe Islands, became suffragans to the newly established Norwegian Metropolitan Archdiocese of Nidaros (now Trondheim).[3] Second bishop was Jón Knútur, who served from 1153–1186.
  • The third bishop, Jón Árnason, nicknamed Smyril), took office in 1189. In 1202–1203 he went on a pilgrimage to Rome and met Pope Innocent III. He died in Garðar in 1209 and was buried there, most likely in the Northern Chapel of the cathedral.
  • The next bishop, Þór Helgi, arrived in Greenland in 1212 and was bishop until his death in 1230. * In 1234 Nikulás was ordained, but he arrived in Greenland only in 1239. He died in 1242.
  • Ólafur was ordained in the same year, but arrived only in 1247. He remained bishop until the mid-1280s. He was abroad from 1264 to 1280, thus hardly serving in his own diocese.
  • The next bishop was Þór Bokki who stayed in Garðar from 1289 until his return to Norway in 1309.
  • The next one to serve was bishop Árni, from 1315 to 1347. Due to the poor communication between Greenland and Norway, it was assumed that he had died and a new bishop (Jón Skalli) was ordained in 1343. When it was discovered that bishop Árni was still alive, Skalli resigned and never went to Greenland.
  • After the death of bishop Árni in 1347, it took a long time for the next bishop to arrive, mainly due to the worsening communications. Ivar Bardsson, a Norwegian cleric, served as principal of the diocese during the interim period. Bishop Álfur was ordained in 1368 and served as last effectively residential bishop of Garðar until 1378.
  • The Greenland diocese disappeared in the 15th century, when the ship departures from Norway stopped.[4]


List of residential Bishops[edit]

Bishop Served years
Arnaldur 1124–1150
Jón Knútur 1153–1186
Jón Árnason 1189–1209
Þór Helgi 1212–1230
Nikulás 1234–1242
Ólafur 1242–mid-1280s
Þór Bokki 1289–1309
Árni 1315–1347
Álfur 1368–1378

Ghost see[edit]

Although the diocese had ceased to function, 'full' bishops were nominated to the see until 1537, apparently none of which ever took possession :

  • Henricus (mentioned in 1386)
  • Bertholdus (circa 1407 )
  • Jacobus Treppe, Friars Minor (O.F.M.) (27 March 1411 - death 1421)
  • Nicolaus
  • Robertus Ryngman, O.F.M. (30 May 1425 - ?)
  • Gobelinus Volant, Canons Regular of Saint Augustine (O.E.S.A.) (circa 1 October 1431 - 19 March 1432), next bishop of Diocese of Børglum (Denmark) (1432.03.19 – ? not possessed)
  • Johannes Erles de Moys, O.F.M. (12 July 1432 - ?)
  • Bartholomeus de Sancto Hyppolito, O.P. (1433 - death 1440)
  • Gregorius (1440 - 1450)
  • Andreas
  • Jacobus Blaa, Dominican Order (O.P.) (16 June 1481 - ? deposed)
  • Mathias Canuto, Benedictine Order (O.S.B.) (9 July 1492 - ?)
  • Vincenz Kampe, O.F.M. (20 June 1519 - 1537).

Titular see[edit]

In 1996, the diocese was nominally restored as Latin titular bishopric of Gardar (Curiate Italian) / Garðar (Norsk bokmål Norwegian) / Garden(sis) (Latin adjective).

So far, it had only one incumbent, of the fitting Episcopal (lowest) rank :


Presently the settlement of Igaliku is situated on the same location. The site has been the subject of archaeological investigations since the 1830s.The cathedral has been the primary target of much of the archaeological work and was fully excavated in 1926 by Danish archaeologist Poul Nørlund (1888–1951). Nørlund made several scientific studies in Greenland starting in 1921 and ending in 1932.[6]

Many ruins of the Norse settlements can still be seen in Igaliku today. The ruins mostly consist of the stone foundations of the walls in their original positions so that the extent of the settlement, both individual buildings and collectively, can be determined and understood. The main ruin is of the Garðar Cathedral, a cross-shaped church built of sandstone in the 12th century. The maximum length is 27 m, the width 16 m. There are also two large barns on the site with the capacity to have held up to 160 cows.

See also[edit]


Sources and external links[edit]

Further eading[edit]

  • Buckland, Paul C. m.fl. (2009). Palaeoecological and historical evidence for manuring and irrigation at Garðar (Igaliku), Norse Eastern Settlement, Greenland. In The Holocene pages 105–116.
  • Høegsberg, Mogens Skaaning (2005). Det norrøne bispesæde i Gardar, Grønland (archeology master thesis in Danish). Aarhus University: Afdeling for Middelalder- og Renæssancearkæologi. OCLC 476576493.
  • Mitlid, Åke (2006). Grønlandsgåten. Kampen om Grønland. Levende Historie . 4 (6): 16–19. ISSN 1503-4208.
  • Plovgaard, Karen (1963). Da Grønland fik sit første bispesæde: Glimt fra nordboriget i det 12. århundrede (PDF). In Tidsskriftet Grønland (Danish) (12): 463–469