Reproduced by permission from J. P. Gregoriussen and Petur Zachariassen.


Mykines church    By Petur Zachariassen

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When the story of building of the church and the church on Mykines is going to be told, the ruin, Břnhúsið, the Prayer-house or chapel, on Bønhúsbergi, also has to be mentioned. Excavations has revealed a building with inner length of 5 meter and width of 3,5 meter, build with well layered stones. The floor and the entrance was paved with flat stones. An older floor with a layer of ashes upon was found below this floor. The layer of ash was probably caused by burning of the former building. Later a new building was erected on the same spot. With no doubt the older house has had inner walls of wood and likewise the next. No remains of an altar has been found, but it could have been in the thick eastern wall. The way of building and the finding of an oil lamp of stone in gothic style gives a hint to a building from the Middle ages.
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A legend tells, that a couple had build outside the fences to the outfield, not long from the chapel. One evening they attended a Mass and they left their little child alone, sleeping. When they returned after the Mass, the child had disappear and was never ever found. They then moved their house into the settlement. The path to their house is still to be seen.
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The former church
On the 31. of July 1862 a man named Mortan Andreasen, born 1816 on Argir, delivered a detailed survey of materials, timber and other building materials, for a new church on Mykines, which was planned to be 22x11 alen (14 x 7 meter). If it is this Mortan, who in the autumn the year after builds a new church on Mykines, is not known for sure. But he is known to have finished the building of a new church on Nólsoy at the end of July the same year, so it could be him.

Per í Nesinum, born 1800, is supposed to have been a master stone mason and well-known for his craftsmanship. No documents says anything about his participation in the building, but at the same time, he is known to have been on Mykines and visiting his daughter, who later on was known as "Gamla Lisa" and who was midwife on Mykines. It is documented, that Per has made the beautifully layered stonewall of the house "Lækjuni".

The new church is inspected by selected men, Jacob Heinesen and Jesar Jacobsen, on the 3. of November 1863. They write, that »it is by the best of knowledge well build«.

In a terrible gale on the15. October 1877, great damage is caused to the church. Already 2 days later, men from Mykines are in Bø to get materials enough, to make the necessary reparations on the church, to make it possible to withstand the coming winter. This is documented by a letter send by the vága vicar on the October 1877 to "amtmand" Findsen, where it also is stated: ...As I have understood, the easterly rafts and 6 alen (3.6 meter) of the sill with a window is torn apart. Another window has also suffered damage and a part of the stonewall is broken.

The damages on the church are inspected on the 5. of April 1878. The surveyors are Laurits Olsen from Sørvági and Heini Zachariassen from Bø. Besides the survey, a proposal is made on how to rebuild the church. The southern wall has to be moved 1 alen (0.62 meter) inwards and has to be layered of stones with six windows. The hight of both the roof and the tower is proposed lowered.

Of the survey documents one can see, that the church was 24 1/4 alen long and 12 ˝ alen broad inside. It had eight windows side by side 6 thumbs apart in the southern facade and there was two windows in the western gable. The church had 45 degree slope and a high tower. The arrangement of the windows is the same as in the church of Saxun from 1858 and in the church of Mikladal from 1859.
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Rebuilding of the church
Among the survey documents there is a list of the materials, which has to be bought. Besides some rafter, which could be reused, the list contains materials for a new roof, beams, sill, 30 rafter of 16 feet length, new 1 1/4 " boards for the roof, new birch bark to place below the turf. 30 barrels of cement, 20 barrels of lime and 150 barrels of sand. All of an estimated cost of 2.234 kroner 48 řre. The materials are brought to Mykines with the vessel »Surprise« in may 1878. Weather all the materials has arrived is dubious, but maybe they have.

To illustrate how the circumstances were on Mykines at that time, here are some fragments of a letter, send by the vága vicar to the "amtmand" after the inspection of the church,.
The letter is written on the 9. of April 1878.

... When 20 barrels of cement has been proposed, it maybe seems to be quite a lot, but on the other hand, it would also be very inconvenient on such a remote place as Mykines, in the middle of the construction work, to lack something. Allow me to propose, that a ship loads all the timber for the church and on its way go to Sørvaag and loads the nesesary amount of sand. Sand is not found on the island, and only 12 barrels of sand can be carried by a boat, so it will be very troublesome to bring it to Mykines by boat. Probably the ship could bring along 1 or 2 boats with men from Sørvaag, so the unloading of sand could be done quicker, as I presume, it will also be difficult to have the ship of any businessman to lie outside Mykines longer than necessary.
Finally I will propose, that the two surveyors get a fee of 4 kroner for their work and for the time consumed, as it can be estimated to two days and we even used the night.
  Jensegjærde 9. April 1878.
Yours honourable G. Engelsted
Hr. Amtmand Finsen R: D:

But the time passes by. And the building is not begone before the year after, in 1879. In a letter to the "amt" 1. of June 1879, it is written, that it has been nesesary with some changes compared to the first survey. Now the northern wall is moved one alen inwards and more stonework has to be done in the southern facade. The walls are not hightened, but there is space enough for a church vault. At this moment, the work is in progress. And the church is finished in the autumn and it is surveyed by Thomas Danielsen and Jesar Jacobsen on the 9. of October.
The vicar Hjort writes in a letter the 20. of October 1879 to the dean Sřrensen, that he had consecrated the church on the 16. October 1879 and that he had spoken over Jesajas 28. chapter, verse 16.

The following men build the church:

Timber work:  
  Harald Olsen, Miðvági, foreman
  Joen Frederik Danielsen, Miðvági
  Joen Abrahamsen, Joen Heine Jacobsen, Jeser Jensen, Jeser Abrahamsen, all from Mykines.
Stone work:  
  Laurits Olsen, Sørvági, foreman
  Hans Pauli Mouritzen, Sørvági
Ion work:  
  Jesar Abrahamsen, Mykines

The building period was 83 days and was payed this way:

Timber work
Stone work
Ion work;
Sum     kr. 1.441,42
Materials bought beforehand
Bills 30-37, different materials and work
Total costs     kr. 4.091,98

Documents exists which tells so:

27 men participated in the building of the church in 1879 and performed 3652 hours of "pligtarbejde" (duty work, work which had to be done as a collective duty), which we below mentioned guardians for Myggens church hereby certify.
  Joen Abrahamsen
O.]. Jacobsen

Later on this "pliktarbejde" was paid with kr. 117,49 to be distributed among the 27 men, proportional to the number of hours they had participated in the building of the church.
On an auction, which was held on the 7. of October 1879, the surplus materials were sold. 177,55 kr. was the result of the auction. After the subtraction of different costs, the final result of the auction was kr. 160,78. This is confirmed by "syslemand" Z. Nielsen on the 7. of February 1880.

From other documents, it can be read, that there were big problems with too high humidity in the church and men were afraid of, that the church would be rotten. In a survey performed on the 19. of June 1882, it is proposed:

to make 3 vents, 12 thumbs in diameter in the church vault to facilitate drought ... Cramps on two more windows.
  Thomas Danielsen
Harald Olsen

No serious changes have been made to the church after the rebuilding in 1879. Shortly before The Second World War, Haldur Joensen from Mykines has made and mounted new windows in the southern facade, but the window in the northern facade is the original. In the middle of the 1970'ies, a plastic membrane was placed upon the birch bark and new turf was laid. Jógvan Meinhard Johannesen from Mykines, was in charge of this work. The main entrance door has later been renewed.
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Church inventory
A poor-box of brass is in the porch. It was originally the storm bell of an Russian trawler, which went shipwreck on the shore south of the village in 1956. The bell was remade for poor-box by the blacksmith Dánjal Tausen from Sørvági and was donated by the parish clerk Benadikt Davidsen in 1958.  
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A crucifix cut in oak by Frida á Hamre and a gift from the congregation in 1957.
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Altar painting showing the crucifixion. It has been painted by an unknown painter, bought in Copenhagen and in 1905 given by Joen (Jógvan) Abrahamsen, "kongsbonde" kings farmer, on Mykines.
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A copy in plaster of Berthel Thorvaldsens famous sculpture of Jesus Christ (also to be found in many other churches around the world).
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Two old altar candlesticks in bronze.
Silver chalice and -plate.
Two altar candlesticks in brass.
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One three armed candlestick of brass donated by the congregation in1957.
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Two brass chandeliers, donated by the congregation.
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A baptismal bassin with inscription, coat of arms and the year 1643 written upon.
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The church bell with inscriptions is a gift from the congregation and cast in 1827 by Jacob Ritzmann in Copenhagen.
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Besides this, some memory tablets are placed in the church. They are in memory of the men from Mykines, who lost their lives on the sea. They were originally placed on the memorial above the village.
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Another memorial tablet has been placed by the Icelandic Airline Company, whose airliner crashed on Mykines in September 1970, with the loss of 9 lives.
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Going to church in former times
Every holiday, service was held in the church. Most often it was a service by the parish clerk, as there often were months between the visits of the vicar. In winter there were hardly any visits. And in the other seasons of the year, the vicars weren't very interested in risking being "vejrfast", being unable to return from Mykines, which is a possibility at all seasons. In former time, all the vicars were Danish and they are not to blame being afraid of a place as Mykines. There was no telephone before 1927 and the connection by boat could be both unreliable and dangerous, as Mykinesfjørður is one of the fjords of the Faroes, with the strongest currents.
It often happened, that a vicar decided to visit Mykines a day with fine weather, even if this was a normal working day. His boat was then able to wait for him as long as the service lasted. It is not surprising, that only very few people attended the service, because of all the other things, which had to be done, both in the in- and outfield, and as men also were fishing, especially on such fine days. Up to maybe in the first fourth of the 1900'ties, it went on In this way.
Now it is all history and everything has changed. Now there are telephones and the service by boat is much better. And now there even is connection by helicopter.
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The first time the service was held in the Faroese language, was Christmas eve or Christmas day in the late 1920'ies. It was the teacher Pól Petersen, who read the Christmas Gospel in Faroese.

There has been an organ in the church for many years Until the1950 - 60'ies Heini Jacobsen played the organ and the congregation was very good to join in. When the painter S. J. Mikines or Elias Zachariassen (now Ivarsson and living on Iceland), attended the service, the song was even better, as these two men had beautifull voices.

Boys can do so many things. They had paid attention to the fact, that the elder men, when attending the service, laid their pipes in wholes in the stonewall around the churchyard. Probably the pipes have been too hot and with too much tobacco and glowes left, to be put in a pocket. And they have maybe laid them there, to be ready to be smoked again after the service. But the boys took the chance to »loan« the pipes and tried to smoke unattended as long as the old men were in the church. It was important to lay back the pipes before the service was finished.
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Holidays on Mykines
Twelfth Night has always been a holiday all the day on Mykines. This is not the case all over the Faroes. At other places it was a normal working day and there was only an evening service.
Up to the beginning of the 1900'th, there was a service Wednesday in the Fast. It was not seldom convenient, as there always was some work, which had to be done. So men were working before the service, but naturally not during the service. As soon as the last bedeslag had been knocked, they were working again. There was always something, which one had to be the first to do, as for instance, to be at the shore, when there was a chance of finding jetsam.
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The story of the plague
The churchyard on Mykines is well known for the great number and the size of the "kvan", angelica, which grows there. They were sowed or planted after the plague had tormented Mykines. Many people died and where these people have been buried, nobody has ever been buried again. At other places on the churchyard, graves have been placed upon graves.
The story goes, that the plague never came above Brunnstein on the Túvalag farm. There is a little stream downwards the house Lækjun and the house of Jákupi hjá Olavi. It is told, that somebody, who had second sight, had seen a woman with a broom sweeping downwards from Brunnstein, so the infection smitten never reached the upper part of the village.
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Jógvan Meinhard Johannesen, Mykines
Føroya Landsskjalasavn
Trapp, Føroyar, 1968
Føroya Kirkjutíðindi