The Faroe Islands (; Faroese: Føroyar, pronounced [ˈfœɹjaɹ]; Danish: Færøerne, pronounced [ˈfæɐ̯øːˀɐnə]), or the Faeroe Islands, is a North Atlantic archipelago located 320 kilometres (200 mi) north-northwest of Scotland, and about halfway between Norway and Iceland. It is an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark. The islands have a total area of about 1,400 square kilometres (540 sq mi) with a population of 51,783 .
The terrain is rugged; the climate is subpolar oceanic climate (Cfc)—windy, wet, cloudy, and cool. Temperatures average above freezing throughout the year because of the Gulf Stream. As a result of the moderation and the northerly latitude, summers normally hover around 12 °C (54 °F). Average temperatures are 5 °C (41 °F) in winter. The northerly latitude also results in perpetual civil twilight during summer nights and very short winter days.
) is the capital
and largest town of the Faroe Islands
. It is located in the southern part on the east coast of Streymoy
. To the north west of the town lies the 347-metre (1,138 ft)
high mountain Húsareyn
, and to the southwest, the 350-metre (1,150 ft)
high Kirkjubøreyn. The city proper has a population of 13,000 (2008), and the greater urban area a population of 19,000.
The Vikings established their parliament on the Tinganes peninsula in 850 CE, thus Tórshavn was made capital of Faroe Islands and has remained so ever since. All through the Middle Ages the narrow peninsula jutting out into the sea made up the main part of Tórshavn. Sources do not mention a built-up area in Tórshavn until after the Protestant Reformation in 1539. Early on, Tórshavn became the center of the monopoly trade, thereby being the only legal place for the islanders to sell and buy goods. In 1856, the trade monopoly was abolished and the islands were left open to free trade. The town has grown rapidly ever since the turn of the 20th century into the undisputed administrative, economic and cultural center of the Faroes.
Sigmundur Brestisson (961 – 1005) was the first Faroe-man to convert to the Christian faith, bringing Christianity to the Faroes at the decree of Olaf Tryggvason. He is one of the main characters of the Færeyinga saga.
According to the Færeyinga saga, emigrants who left Norway to escape the tyranny of Harald I of Norway, settled in the islands about the beginning of the 9th century. Early in the 11th century, Sigmundur, whose family had flourished in the southern islands but had been almost exterminated by invaders from the north, was sent back to the Faroe Islands, whence he had escaped, to take possession of the islands for Olaf Tryggvason, king of Norway.
At first Sigmundur tried to Christianize the Faroe Islanders, on decree of the Norwegian king, by bringing the order to the Alting in Tórshavn, but was nearly killed by the angry mob. He then changed his tactics, went with armed men to the residences of the chieftain Tróndur í Gøtu, broke in his house by night and gave him the choice between Christianity or beheading. That worked.
According to tradition, his gravestone is located in the so-called Sigmundarsteinur in Skúvoy. It bears a carved cross and was part of the old church.
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