Saint Thorlac Thorhalli
Saint Thorlakur.JPG
Statue of St Thorlac at the Roman Catholic Cathedral, Reykjavik, Iceland
Bishop of Skalholt
Born 1133, Fljótshlíð, Iceland
Died December 23, 1193, Skálholt, Iceland
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Canonized 14 January 1984 by Pope John Paul II
Feast December 23; July 20 (translation of relics)
Patronage Iceland

Saint Thorlac Thorhalli (Old Norse: Þorlákr Þórhallsson, Icelandic: Þorlákur (helgi) Þórhallsson) (1133 – December 23, 1193) is the patron saint of Iceland. He was bishop of Skalholt from 1178. His status as a saint was confirmed in 1198 by the Althing, but this was never made official by the Catholic Church until January 14, 1984, when John Paul II canonized him officially and declared him the patron saint of Iceland.[1] His life and dozens of his miracles are described in great detail in Icelandic saga Þorláks Saga Helga (Saga of Saint Thorlak), republished recently in Icelandic on the occasion of John Paul II visit to Iceland.

Of an aristocratic family, Thorlac was ordained deacon before he was fifteen and consecrated a priest at the age of eighteen. He studied abroad at Paris and Lincoln for about six years (he may also have visited London).

Returning to Iceland in 1161, Thorlac founded an Augustinian monastery at Þykkvibær after refusing to marry a rich widow. There he devoted himself to a strictly religious life, refusing to marry (many other Icelandic priests were married) and devoting himself to reciting the Our Father, the Creed, and a hymn, as well as fifty Psalms.


He was consecrated as bishop by Augustine of Nidaros and worked to regulate the Augustinian Rule in Iceland, as well as eradicate simony, lay patronage, and clerical incontinency.

Þorláksmessa (St. Thorlac's Day)

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Þorláksmessa (Thorlac's mass) is celebrated on the date of his death, December 23.

It is considered the last day of preparations before Christmas. Therefore, on St. Thorlac's Day, the house is cleaned and preparations for the Christmas meal are begun. Most people in Reykjavík go into town in the night to meet others and do the last shopping before Christmas. Fish was usually eaten on Þorláksmessa since December 23 was the last day of the Catholic Christmas fast. In western Iceland, it was customary to eat cured skate on this day; this custom spread to the whole of Iceland. The skate is usually served with boiled or mashed potatoes, accompanied by a shot of Brennivín.


  1. Roman Catholic Diocese of Reykjavik, Iceland

External links

Preceded by
Klængur Þorsteinsson
Bishop of Skálholt
Succeeded by
Páll Jónsson
fo:Tollakur Tórhallssonis:Þorlákur helgi Þórhallssonno:Thorlákr Thorhallssonuk:Святий Торлак

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