Petersson (Pjétursson), Hallgrìmur (Hallgrim)


b Gröf, nr Hólar, Iceland 1614, d Sourby, Iceland 1674. The son of a farmer and cathedral bellringer, expelled from the attached school for his satirical verse and sharp tongue. He was sent (or ran away) as a lad to Copenhagen where Brynjolf Sveinsson, a future Lutheran bishop in Iceland, found him working in a blacksmith’s shop and swearing eloquently, but recognised his other talents. He was placed in school in the city, and 4 years later chosen to teach the Christian faith to 38 ransomed slaves seized by corsairs from Algiers in 1627 and now been returned to Denmark. These pupils included Gudred Simonardottir, an older lady with whom he returned to Iceland, marrying her and fathering her child after her husband’s death. They lived in poverty on the Reykjanes Peninsula in the SW region, supported by his labouring and fishing, until Sveinsson (now bishop of Skálholt) accepted Hallgrim’s penitence and ordained him in the Lutheran Ch. From 1644 he ministered at Hvalsnes in his home region, but in 1651 moved to Saurbær (Sourby) on the Whalefirth where his hymnwriting began. His masterpiece (1656–59) was the greatest literary work was the Passíusálmar; 50 hymns on the passion of Christ’s suffering and death, reprinted some 70 times, by which he became one of Iceland’s greatest poets and the father of Icelandic hymnody, the Shakespeare and Watts of his native land. Much of the verse takes narrative form, leading into an application in spiritual teaching or adoration; many of the texts suggest the work of a preacher. He also came to be known for his concern for ‘the poor common people’. But in 1662 his house was burned down; later he contracted the leprosy which effectively ended his ministry and hastened his death, at the home of his son with whom he spent his last years. See also David G Hill in HSB211 (April 1997); and Bp Sigurbjörn Einarsson’s 1978 introduction to the translation by Arthur C Gook (of the Christian Brethren, 1883-1959) of Hymns of the Passion. One drawback of Gook’s posthumously-published versions is that his ingenuity sometimes affects their impact on their readers or singers. Translations have also appeared in Latin, Danish and Chinese. No.907.

Hymns and songs by Petersson (Pjétursson), Hallgrìmur (Hallgrim)

Number Hymn Name
907 I know that my Redeemer