Icelandic composer Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson lived in Edinburgh during the 1870s, as the Scottish capital represented more opportunities for a fledgling musician than his home country.
He resided in a Georgian-style townhouse in the city’s New Town, however, he probably never imagined that one of his pieces composed here would become his country’s national song. Lofsöngur (Hymn) would become the national anthem in 1944, following Iceland’s independence from Denmark.
Its lyrics were written by Matthías Jochumsson, who would later be known as Iceland’s “national poet.” While Jochumsson and Sveinbjörnsson did know each other in Edinburgh, it’s likely that the lyrics were added to the 1874 composition when Jochumsson was in Iceland. The full name of the song is The Millennial Hymn of Iceland, and its lyrics are deeply Christian.
“Ó Guð vors lands” (O, God of our land) is the first line of the song and as such, some believe it to be the title. With Iceland’s continuing trends towards secularism, it has often been considered that Lofsöngur could be changed in the near future. It’s also famously difficult to sing correctly as it requires a wide vocal range.
Know Before You Go
This is a private residence and cannot be accessed. The plaque itself is visible from the street however, as long as you are being respectful of residents and neighbors.