Cloisters and Culture in Iceland and the North 
in the Middle Ages

Sverrir Jakobsson

Frá Helgafellsklaustri til Stapaumboðs: Góss í íslensku og breiðfirsku samhengi

Fimmtudaginn 5. nóvember 2013 kl. 16.30
Árnagarði 423

Sverrir Jakobsson

Most research into real estate holdings and the class system in Iceland has focused on the country as a whole and drawn general conclusions on this basis. By so doing, knowledge about regional differences has not been gained. There is, however, reason to examine the different manifestations of land/property ownership better, and working customs from one local area to the next.  Locally-focused research presents the possibility for better charting developments within particular areas though sources are lacking for other areas at the same time. Around Breiðafjörður, real estate ownership increased during the 14th century and sources show clearly that individuals and places on a par with Helgafellsklaustur looked to increase their holdings within delineated areas. Helgafellsklaustur’s estate holdings were thus amassed relatively quickly over a period of a few decades shortly after the middle of the 14th century.  In the 15th century, there was yet more concentrated land acquisition and chieftains owned many estates in many areas. A class of land-owner came into being which virtually controlled the whole country and dominated the economy without major change until the 18th century. The especially local distribution of the Helgafellsklaustur estates was, however, a legacy from the 14th century when the monastery’s land holdings were concentrated around Snæfellsnes. In the 16th century, these holdings fell to the Stapaumboð but chieftains, being foremost politically, could make the most of this in order to strengthen their positions locally around Breiðafjörður. In the lecture, the extent to which the Helgafellsklaustur landholdings were significant with regard to the process of the Reformation in Breiðafjörður will be discussed, and whether the Stapaumboð in later centuries owed its existence to these origins.

Sverrir Jakobsson is lecturer in medieval history at the University of Iceland.  Amongst other topics, he has worked on identity and the Icelandic nation, the Peace of God in medieval Iceland, and power centres in Breiðafjörður and elsewhere in Iceland.