Viðey is an important historic site. Archaeological excavations have disclosed that the island was inhabited already in the 10th century. It was the location of an Augustine monastery from 1225 to 1539 and a centre for pilgrimage in the middle ages.
The Viðey House, the first building constructed of stone in Iceland, is one of the country’s oldest buildings and a significant part of Icelandic architectural history. It was built in the mid 17th century as the official residence of Treasurer Skúli Magnússon. Viðey House was inhabited until the 1950s. It now houses a restaurant.
Viðey Church was consecrated in 1774. The church, which was built at Skúli’s initiative, is one of Iceland’s oldest churches and still has its original interior fittings.
Around 100 people lived on the island at the beginning of the 20th century. Their main occupations were fish processing and trawler operations. The trawler operations were discontinued in 1931 and by 1943 the village was deserted.
The Icelandic state gave the island to the City of Reykjavík on the city’s 200th anniversary in 1986, in the wake of which The Viðey House was renovated.
Viðey is 1,6 km² in size, with its highest point rising 32 m above sea level. The island is of volcanic origin and was formed about two million years ago.
The oldest rock strata of Viðey are layered hyaloclastite mixed with pillow lava and gabbro. The West Island and the eastern shoreline is formed of gray basalt (dolerite) and basaltic columns can be found in several places on the island. The island is relatively well developed and rich in bird life. At least 30 species of breeding birds have been counted on the island with the eider duck being the most common. It lays eggs on both sides of Þórsnes Point where the island is preserved during nesting season, from May 1st till July 1st. Other common birds found on the island include the fulmar, graylag, snipe, sandpiper and sea pie.
Viðey Island is home to fascinating works of art by world-renowned artists. On the West Island a well known sculpture by American sculptor Richard Serra can be found. Serra’s work, Milestones, is comprised of nine pairs of pillars columnar basalt, which “frame” certain landmarks.
In October 9th, 2007, Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace Tower was raised on the island in memory of the Beatle John Lennon. The Peace Tower is actually a light, since a strong light will shine upwards from the ground, 20–30 m into the air. The tower is meant to shed the light of peace on the nations of the world.
A statue of the Virgin Mary and Child is located at the northern point of the Kvennagönguhólar. The statue was erected in the year 2000 to commemorate a thousand years of Christianity in Iceland. Virgin Mary was The Viðey Monastery’s guardian angel.
Paintings and other artworks by renowned Icelandic artists can be seen in The Viðey House.
On Viðey Island you will find:
· Unspoiled nature and peace
· A thousand years of history and culture
· A paradise for birdwatchers
· A number of beautiful hiking trails
· Numerous information signs
· Guided tours
· A photo exhibition about life on Viðey Island in the early 19th century
· Leisure area and playground for children
· Special activities on weekends
· Barbecue facilities for guests
· Free bike loan during the summer
Here you can find more information about the history