Brynjólfur Sveinsson

Brynjólfur Sveinsson (14 September 1605 – 5 August 1675) served as the Lutheran Bishop of the see of Skálholt in Iceland. His main influence has been on modern knowledge of Old Norse literature. Brynjólfur is also known for his support of the career of the Icelandic poet and hymn writer Hallgrímur Pétursson. Brynjólfur Sveinsson is currently pictured on the 1,000 Icelandic króna banknote.[1][2][3]

Brynjólfur Sveinsson
Bishop of Skálholt
Portrait of Bishop Brynjólfur Sveinsson
Bishop Brynjólfur
ChurchChurch of Iceland
In office1639–1674
PredecessorGísli Oddsson
SuccessorÞórður Þorláksson
Personal details
Born(1605-09-14)September 14, 1605
Önundarfjörður, Iceland
DiedAugust 5, 1675(1675-08-05) (aged 69)
Skálholt, Iceland
Nationality Icelandic

Brynjólfur was born in Önundarfjörður in the Westfjords of northwestern Iceland. He studied at the University of Copenhagen from 1624 to 1629 and was Provost of Roskilde University from 1632 to 1638.[4]

In 1643, he named the collection of Old Norse mythological and heroic poems Edda. Brynjólfur attributed the manuscript to Sæmundr fróði, but the scholarly consensus is that whoever wrote the Eddic poems, whether in the sense of being the compiler or the poet, it could not have been Sæmundr. It is believed that the manuscript has multiple authorship from over a long span of time.[5]

In 1650 King Frederick III appointed Brynjólfur to succeed the late Stephanius as Royal Danish Historian. He declined the post but promised the king to do what he could to collect manuscripts in Iceland. One of his first acts was to request all people residing in his diocese to turn over to the King any old manuscripts, either an original or a copy, as a gift or for a price.[6]

Among the most monumental of the Icelandic manuscripts thus collected is the Flateyjarbók, which was secured only after a personal visit to the owner from Brynjólfur. Jon Finnsson (Jóni Finnssyni) of Flatey, Breiðafjörður, who owned the manuscript, was initially unwilling to give up his precious heirloom. After a personal visit and persuasion from Brynjólfur, Finnsson gave up the valuable manuscript. The manuscript was given to King Frederick III in 1656, and placed in the Royal Library of Copenhagen.[7]

Brynjólfur Sveinsson in fictionEdit

The novel Brynjólfur Sveinsson biskup by Torfhildur Þorsteinsdóttir Hólm, first published in 1882, is based on the life of the historical Brynjólfsson Sveinsson.[8]


Preceded by Bishop of Skálholt
Succeeded by