The Faroes in the Viking Age
According to Icelandic Færeyinga Saga (The Saga of the Faroese), Grímur Kamban was the first settler of the Faroes. Settling on the islands during the reign of Haraldur Hárfagri, c. 872-930. However, archaeological evidence point to earlier norse settlements and even earlier Gaelic settlements. The Faroese Løgting (Parliament) is also considered to be one of the oldest parliament in world, dating back to c. 825.
During the early viking age, the Faroes were divided into a northern and southern fiefdom. Though the Løgting was in Tórshavn, in Suðuroy, the village of Hov, meaning temple, was the religious capital of the Faroes. There lived Havgrímur, who was chieftain of the southern part of the Faroes and Havgrímur was called “blótmaður mikill” meaning a man who conducted sacrifices. There are other place names pertaining to heathen religious practices that are dotted throughout Suðuroy, from the village of Hov itself to Halgafelli (holy mountain) and Hørg (sacrificial mound).
In Hov, above the village is a partially excavated burial, which legend has it, belongs to the chieftain Havgrímur. Even higher on the top of the mountain above the village is Halgafelli.
Another notable village mentioned in the Faroese Saga is Sandvík, where Tórgrímur Illi lived together with his two sons, who killed Sigmundur Brestisson. There one can visit Sigmundsgjógv, where Sigmundur washed ashore and Sigmundarsteinurin (Sigmunds’ Stone) where he was buried.
In the Island north of Suðuroy is Skúvoy, where Beinir and Brestir lived, chieftains of the northern half the Islands. Following the battle between Tróndur and Brestir and Beinir. Havgrímur joined Tróndur in a plot to eliminate Brestir and Beinir, which succeeded but Beinir, Brestir and Havgrímur perished, leaving only the sons of all three in the care of Tróndur.
Leivur, son of Havgrímur, was raised by Tróndur in Gøtu, to eventually inherit his fathers’ fiefdom in alliance with Tróndur, who would remain chief of the northern part of the Faroes. Tróndur sent the two boys who were cousins, Sigmundur Brestisson and Tórir Beinisson to live in Norway.
Excavations of have revealed two settlements in Hvalba, one at Skálum, which today is covered by a memorial and another is at Nes, Hvalba, at Bønhústangi (Chapel on a tongue of land). The ruins at Bønhústangi are still visible and dating back to the 11th century. In Porkeri during renovations of the floor of the old church, revealed an older, medieval church under the one today.
There are many place names, which originate from Gaelic. Most notable is Ergi, for example, meaning summer pasture for livestock, and in Hov one can visit Ergidalur, which can be found at inner end of the valley in Hov, near Vatnsnes. There are some ruins that are still visible today.
If you’re interested in experiencing viking tours and events, we recommend that you visit the annual Viking Festival in Hov or maybe book a viking tour with the tour operator ‘Ergi’ in Hov.