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Challenge the City to Stop Construction in Ancient Cemetery

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Challenge the City to Stop Construction in Ancient Cemetery

Austurvöllur, Reykjavík

Photo: Geir Ólafsson.

It’s almost unheard of that the earthly remains of people in hallowed ground are made to give way for a secular building, state three honorary citizens of Reykjavík, who yesterday presented the mayor and chairman of the city council with a challenge to stop the construction of a hotel in the city centre, RÚV reports. The hotel in question is to be built partially over an old cemetery.

Construction has started on tearing down the Landssími building by Austurvöllur square, which is to be replaced by a hotel. The construction has been controversial, not least because the new hotel is to have a cellar, part of which will be built over the ancient Vík cemetery. The cemetery is where the people of Reykjavík were buried for the most part of the last millennium, probably from the 11th century until the 19th.

A challenge to stop the construction was delivered to mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson and city council chairman Þórdís Lóa Þórhallsdóttir today, by honorary citizens of Reykjavík Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, former president of Iceland, Þorgerður Ingólfsdóttir, musician, and Friðrik Ólafsson, chess grandmaster and former office manager of the parliament.

Friðrik read the challenge and reminded everyone present that the earthly remains of those buried in the cemetery had been removed two years ago. “It’s almost unheard of that the earthly remains of people in hallowed ground are made to give way to a secular building. This is blatant disrespect for our history and the memory of our forefathers.”

Buildings in ancient cemeteries are not in compliance with laws about cemeteries.

“We challenge the city of Reykjavík and the builders of the hotel to drop the intended construction that will predictably cause irreparable damage to this fragile and historic place in the heart of the capital,” said Friðrik.

Dagur told Vísir that he"understood their concerns over construction in a key location in the heart of the city. We had the issue looked over carefully. The cemetery hasn't been used since 1837 and that's something that the city considered when making its decisions. We will go over the challenge and present it to the city council." Þórdís Lóa claimed to be happy that citizens care about the city's issues. but that the construction was so far along that it would be difficult to stop.

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