In the latter days of the Greenland Norse colony, it so happened that the episcopal seat fell vacant.

It had been 20 years since Bishop Álf died, and in all that time there had been no word from Norway, and no bishop for the Greenlanders. The great cathedral at Garðar had fallen into disrepair: the wall-hangings were threadbare and rotting away, the eucharistic vessels dented and dull.

At the Althing one year there was much discussion of this.

“Maybe we need to start sacrificing to Þórr and Frey again, like we used to in the old days,” said one man.

“Those ways are in even greater disrepair,” said another.

The Greenlanders thought this a fine joke, and it was widely repeated throughout the districts.


Jane Smiley (1988) The Greenlanders. Knopf.


Above: Hvalsey ("whale's island") Church, ca. 1325 ce

Qaqortoq, Greenland