The presidential residence and the church date back to the early 19th century and are situated in the open landscape at Bessastadir, on the peninsula Alftanes, just south of the capital.

The first recorded information on Bessastadir dates back to the turn of the 12th century, when the farm was the property of the renowned chieftain and author Snorri Sturluson. After his murder in 1241 the property was seized by the Norwegian king, becoming the first such to fall into the hands of the kings.

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View of Bessastadir with the Capital City of Reykjavik and Hallgrímskirkja, Icelands largest chruch, in the background. ©2010 Adriana Durian Photography

In 1841, The Bessastadir School came into possession of Bessastadir. The church became a county church in 1867 and remained as such until 1941.

In 1941 a Reykjavik businessman, Sigurdur Jonsson, purchased the property and donated it on the condition that is would become, and remain, the residence of the Icelandic president. It remained the residence of the governor until 1944, when Iceland gained independence from Denmark in 1944 and the first president was elected by parliament.

©2010 Adriana Durian Photography

Bessastadir has been a site of a church since the year 1000 and the first documented sources mention a church there in the year 1200. It took about 20 years to finish the construction of the present church, which was consecrated in 1796 and restored in 1998. It is one of the oldest buildings made of cemented stone in the country. The stones are from the Gallow Lava field east of Bessastadir and were transported to the property on open boats. The church was decorated with its stained windows in 1956 to commemorate the 60th birthday of the second president of the country, Asgeir Asgeirsson.

Icelands president is Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, who is the fifth President of Iceland and has served as President since 1996; he is the longest-serving left-wing president in the history of Iceland.He married Guðrún Katrín Þorbergsdóttir in 1974. Þorbergsdóttir, much loved by the Icelandic people, died from leukemia in 1998; she was laid to rest in the cemetery beside the church on the Presidential grounds.President Grímssons second marriage was to Israeli-born Dorrit Moussaieff . They were married in a private ceremony held at the Presidential residence.

©2010 Adriana Durian Photography

Icelands flag become the national flag when Iceland gained independence from Denmark in 1944. The flag’s colouring represents the colours that stand for 3 of the elements that make up the island; red is the fire produced by the island’s volcanoes, white recalls the ice and snow that covers Iceland, and blue for the Atlantic Ocean.

This is the Presidential flag that was flying at the Presidential residence. The Icelandic presidency uses a swallowtailed Icelandic flag with the Coat of arms; it is used on the all dwellings of the President as well as any Presidential vehicles. ©2010 Adriana Durian Photography

Ragga, her son Brynjar Leó, and I went out to the Presidents residence one afternoon. What surprised me most was that we could just drive right up to it … well, not right up to the front door, but we did park by the beautiful church and then just walked the grounds. I didn’t notice any signage; though Ragga mention that it was discouraged to walk over the brick road between the church and residence. Still, it blew me away that other than the brick road restriction, we were free to walk the grounds. How free?? … well, here’s a picture of Brynjar Leó posing in the tree grove on the grounds.

©2010 Adriana Durian Photography