For centuries (between 1056 to 1785) Skálholt was a political and cultural hub in Iceland, and one of only two areas overseen by bishops. In the wealthy settlement was a school, farms, a monastery and living quarters. The great cathedral that once stood here was destroyed by a major earthquake in the 18th century, but visitors can step inside the huge Evangelical Lutheran church, built between 1956 and 1963. It has a museum, runs a restaurant and hosts summertime concerts.
When the Reformation came, this rural society's capital collapsed. The last Catholic bishop, Jon Arason, was beheaded here with his two sons in 1550. Excavations have revealed the remains of former bishops. Other items of interest kept at Skálholt include church bells from the Middle Ages and antique books.