Odin (at left) wise-bearded and one-eyed. Thor (at right), the most important of the Norse gods, with his hammer Mjollnir.
When Christianity began to spread in Norway towards the close of the l0th century, several attempts were made at Christianizing Iceland, but for various reasons they met with little success, the fact was that the organization of the state was in form based on these heathen customs and practices and had in reality grown up round the pagan temples, under the influence of their priests or gođar (sing. gođi). It was clear that this organization would break up, if a new religion was adopted by a part of the population who would then be divided into two camps, one heathen, the other Christian, fighting for the supremacy of the country. In the year 1000 this struggle ended in such a way, that the population agreed to follow the advice and decision of the lawspeaker Thorgeir Ljósvetningagođi, that Christianity should henceforward be the official religion in Iceland. Behind this unique arrangement when a whole nation changes its religious faith by a simple decree, looms the fear of the disruption of the state caused by conflicting systems of faith and of the Christian Kings of Norway's interferenee in Icelandic affairs, who always desired to get Iceland under their sway.
It would be rather far-fetched to trace our ancestry back to the heathen gods, although some may find it amusing to do so. In the year 1056 the first Icelandic bishop, Ísleifur Gissurarson was consecrated. After the cecemony which was accomplished in Bremen, Germany, Ísleifur Gissurarson went to Rome to have the Pope's blessing. After Ísleifur, his son Gissur became bishop in Skálholt. Among other things he played the cards well for the church by introducing a tithe; every landowner should pay 1% tax to the church. Thath was the beginning of the church's evergrowing wealth until the last catholic bishop Jón Arason, was beheaded in Skálholt in 1550 and the Reformation was forced by the Danish crown upon the Icelandic population. After that the church's wealth was more or less seized upon by the Danish kings.
These first Icelandic bishops are indeed our forefathers. For example, Ísleifur Gissurarson is my 29th grandfather :-)
As I know that many of you trace their ancestry to Jón Arason (1484-1550) I show you in this page's right column the connection between the first and the last catholic bishops in Iceland.