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Guðríður was born in Iceland around 980 and moved with her family to Brattalið in Greenland in 998. The journey was a disaster, and the ship they were sailing crashed into a reef, where they were stranded for days, until they were spotted and rescued by Leifur “Heppni” Eiríksson (Leif the Lucky). 

Leifur’s father, Eiríkur “Rauði” Þorvaldsson (Eric the Red) gave some land to her family after their rescue.

It is even claimed that his nickname “Heppni” was given to him because of this event. 

Her husband, Thorir Austmanni, died shortly after, maybe from injuries from the shipwreck.

Soon after she married Þorstein Eiríksson, brother to Leifur, and started planning to follow Leifur to Vinland (L’Anse aux Meadows in Gulf of Saint Lawrence, present day Canada). 

Before they could venture out Þorstein died.

Guðríður married again, this time to Þorfinnr Karlsefni, on the condition that he would travel with her to Vinland.

After a dramatic journey across the Atlantic they finally found Leifur’s and Freydis’s settlement, and started expanding it. They were a part of the – so far – greatest colonising party, of 160 people, bringing lots of tools, livestock etc.

Guðríður kept on pushing for further exploration of the land, and for a peaceful coexistence, trading goods and skills with the Skrälingi” (presumably Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) indigenous population). Meanwhile she got pregnant, and in 1004 she gave birth to the first European born in America, Snorre Þorfinnsson.

The explorations she initiated took the Vikings as far south as Hóp – present day Manhattan.

Unfortunately the peaceful coexistence with the Skrälingi didn’t work as well as she had hoped, and after only three years they journeyed back to Greenland, and from there to Norway.

After a single winter in Norway they travelled to Iceland, and built a farm in Glaumbær, close to where Guðríður grew up.

When Þorfinnr died, leaving Guðríður a widow for the third time, she went on a pilgrimage to Rome, sailing to Denmark, and from there taking the rest of the journey on foot.

En route and in Rome this devout Christian Viking visited numerous churches, and sparked quite a lot of attention. This led to the pope wanting to meet her, and see this oddity for himself.

On her return to Iceland she saw that her son, Snorri, had built a Church in Glaumbær. 

She moved into the church, and lived there as a nun for the rest of her life.

Crossing the oceans eight times, going back and forth between Iceland, Greenland, Vinland, Norway and Rome, she is presumably the most far-travelled Viking in the 11th century. 

On March 4th 2011, Iceland’s President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson was in an audience in the Vatican with Pope Benedict XVI, where he presented the Pope with a cast of Ásmundur Sveinsson’s sculpture of Guðríður and her son Snorre.

If you understand Scandinavian languages you can hear her story as a dramatic podcast in Swedish and Danish.

Sources: Eiríks saga rauða and Grœnlendinga saga plus archeological excavations in L’Anse aux Meadows.