‘Havnar kirkja’- the Church of Tórshavn – has been the cathedral of the Faroes since 1990. Until 1974, Tórshavn and the villages that belonged to the parish only had this one church. In 1975 Vesturkirkjan, the West Church, was inaugurated, and in 1976, the city was divided into two parish districts. Thus Havnar kirkja became the parish church of the eastern part of the city along with the smaller villages in the outskirts of Tórshavn, Hoyvík and Hvítanes. In 2007, Hoyvík og Hvítanes got their own church, Hoyvíkar kirkju. The villages Kaldbak and Nólsoy on the island outside Tórshavn of the same name belong to this parish as well.
Havnar kirkja as a cathedral
The Diocese of The Faroe Islands was reestablished in 1990. From the beginning of the 12th century until the Reformation, the Faroes had been a diocese of their own. After the Reformation, the Faroes became a deanery and at first belonged to the Diocese in Bergen in Norway, but around 1620, the islands came under the Diocese of Zealand in Denmark.
In 1963, the Faroese dean who also was the local vicar of Havnar kirkja, was appointed Deputy Bishop of the Faroes.
When the Faroese diocese was reestablished, Havnar kirkja was chosen to be the cathedral, and the dean’s office was founded.
When the Faroese Parliament, ’løgting’, is inaugurated during the national holiday, Ólavsøka, the tradition for a long time has been that the members of the parliament, the Faroese government representatives and the High Commissioner- ’ríkisumboðsmaður’, along with the bishop, priests and others walk in a procession from the parliament building to Havnar kirkja to attend a service.
The church in 1609
The first church building in Tórshavn we know of was built on the very promontory ”Úti á Reyni” in 1609, but probably there has been an older church on the same spot before that time, maybe all the way back to Catholic times. At that time, this church was by far the biggest church in the Faroes. Back then about 100 people lived in the town of Tórshavn, and the church could seat about 150 people.
The church in 1788
In the beginning of the 1780´es, the construction of a new church building was initiated. The church was built immediately north of the city limits which from 1714 were along the street Bryggjubakki. The church was inaugurated in 1788. Around that time, some 600 people lived in Tórshavn. This new church could seemingly accommodate everybody in the parish.
The foundation was a whitewashed stonewall, the covering was tarred black, windows and tower were painted white. The tower had a golden spire and a weathercock with the year “1788” engraved on it. Originally, the church was thached with birch bark under the turfed roof. The building was not painted on the inside.
The new church was adorned with most of what was in the old church; most of which is still preserved until today.
In 1865, the church underwent a radical reconstruction, after which it got more or less the appearance it has today. The church building was extended somewhat towards the east, and the height of the tower was increased, so it now had two storeys. In the lower storey the church bell was situated, in the upper one the tower clock. At the same time new windows were installed in the church.
The outside of the church was all painted white. The new roof was of slate. The inside walls were painted white, the pews being yellowish brown and grey, the vault was blue and adorned with yellow stars.
The church ships
All in all, three ship models hang in the church today. The first one is a rowing boat, given to the church in 1964. The next one is a model of the ship Norska Løva, the Norwegian Lion, which was wrecked in the bay of Lambá, Lambavík, on New Year´s Eve in 1707 due to the heavy surf. The story goes that one or several members of the crew built the ship model and gave it as a charity or gratitude gift to commemorate the crew´s salvation. The third ship is a model of a brigg, called Peter og Johannes, which was given to the church in 1841.
The bells and chimes
Already in 1709, there were four bells in the church.. Three of them had names:, Munkaklokkan (The Monk’s Bell), Bønarklokkan (The Prayer Bell) og Norsku-Løvu-Klokkan (The Norwegian Lion´s Bell). It was a tradition for a long time to ring Bønarklokkan for the poor who were unable to pay for their funeral. So, it must be this bell that is called Fátækraklokkan (The Poverty Bell) ella Stakkalaklokkan (The Poor Creature Bell). Norsku-Løvu-Klokkan is said to have come to the church from the ship Norska Løva in 1708.
The biggest bell was recast. Today it hangs in the chapel in the churchyard in Undir Heygnum Mikla. The bell which is now being used was given as a gift to the church from a couple in Torshavn in 1952.
In 1865, Havnar Kirkja got a church clock. In 1951, Nótafelagið í Havn gave the church a new clock with chimes.
When Havnar kirkja celebrated its 200th anniversary in 1988, the Municipality of Torshavn gifted the church a new clock with 24 chimes and 15 programmed tunes.
Havnar Kirkja was the first church in the Faroes to receive an organ. This was in 1831. The organ was a gift from the Danish king. In 1972, Verland Johansen built a new organ for the church with 14 organ stops. On the 24th of March in 1996, the church got the organ it still has today, comprising 30 organ stops. This organ was built by Christian Kruse, Verland Johansen’s son-in-law, in the same organ workshop where the first organ was built.
Today, there are three altarpieces in Havnar kirkja. On the northern wall of the ship to the left in the church, there is a painting of The last Supper. The painting that was given to the church in 1647 is probably painted based on a copperplate engraving of Peter Candid´s painting from 1616 which had been painted for a monastery in Munich. To the right, there is a painting from the 18th century, showing Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. The big altarpiece over the altar is a painting of Jesus´ Burial, painted by the Danish artist Ditlev Conrad Blunck in 1825. The painting was given to the church in 1830 by the Danish king Frederik VI.
The baptismal font
The baptismal font was constructed when the church was reconstructed in 1865. The Icelandic Guðmundur Sigurðsson, who was in charge of the rebuilding, made the baptismal font. The bowl itself is made of brass. On the bottom of the bowl the Annunciation is depicted, and underneath the edge a shield with a emblem is engraved, surrounded by the year 1601. The baptismal font is the oldest treasure of the church. The baptismal pitcher is made from silver and dates back to the year 1943.
Today Havnar kirkja has four brass chandeliers. The six-armed chandelier, which hangs next to the entrance, was given to the church in 1757. The next chandelier is from 1954. There are some doubts as to the origin of the twelve-armed chandelier. It is thought to have been a votive offering from the merchant ship “Oldenborg” in 1675. The innermost eight-armed chandelier was given to the church in 1682.
The church silver
Havnar kirkja has some treasures of value. One of the most outstanding things is a silver crucifix, given to the church by Jacob Zitzke in 1713. Another treasure is an altar book, bound in leather with gold letters and a silver plate depicting the crucifixion in the middle of the book cover. The book was given to the church in 1686.
Parts of the altar silver worth mentioning are a silver bread box from 1710, a silver chalice from 1841 and two big brass chandeliers from the year 1678.