The Icelandic Commonwealth period ran from 930 till 1262. At that time, Lögberg, the Law Rock, was the hub of the Alþingmeeting. The Law Speaker, who proclaimed the laws of the Commonwealth out loud, had a special place there. He memorised the laws and had 3 years to recite all of them, but each summer he had to recite the procedural rules.
The Law Speaker was chosen by the Lögrétta, the Legislative Assembly, for a three- year term and was the only paid employee of the Commonwealth. At the Alþing, the Law Speaker was the most powerful person in the country, but in-between, he was officially powerless, although he enjoyed the esteem of his co-travellers because of his important role.
At Lögberg anyone could step forward; speeches were given about important matters, and news was reported of significant events. The events at Lögberg became alive through descriptions in many Icelandic sagas. The lead-up to the adoption of Christianity is well described in Njáls Saga:
"The following day both sides went to theLögberg, and Christians as well as heathens named witnesses and denounced eachothers laws and regulations. Then there arose such a tumult at the Lögberg thatno one could hear what anyone else said."
The role of Lögberg disappeared early on inthe history of the Alþing when Icelanders took allegiance to the Norwegian king in 1262 with a special covenant, Gamli sáttmáli. Because of this, it hasn't been possible to precisely locate the Lögberg, though many think it was at the rocky ledge at the top of the slope Hallurinn, north of Hamraskarð, where the flagpole is now.
Lögrétta was the legislative and therefore the highest branch of the Alþing in the Commonwealth period. The work of the Lögrétta was multifaceted asit settled disputes, passed new laws, and granted exemption from laws. The Law Speaker governed Lögrétta meetings,at which 48 chieftains sat on a central platform. Each chieftain had two advisors who sat in front and behind him.
After the bishoprics at Hólar and Skálholtwere established, the bishops also had seats at the Lögrétta. The number of men who sat at the Lögrétta was thus 146, or 147 if the Law Speaker wasn't achieftain.
The Lögrétta met on both Sundays included in the general assembly, as well as on it´s last day, and more often if the Law Speaker so desired. Everyone was free to follow the proceedings of the Lögrétta, but no one was allowed to stand within the terraced area.
As the 13th century proceeded, increased animosity between chieftain clans ended when Icelanders yielded to the authority of the Norwegian king in 1262 with Gamli Sáttmáli. This treaty made Lögberg redundant and the Lögrétta became the only entity of the Alþing, which then became acourt of law with limited jurisdiction.
At a gathering in 1662, the Lögréttamembers agreed to acknowledge the absolute rule of the Danish king. At that point, the responsibility and power of the Alþing diminished until the last meeting at Þingvellir in 1798. Until the 16th century the Lögrétta was located on the eastern side of the Öxará. In the 16th century, due to changes to the Öxará river, the Lögrétta was isolated on a little islet and so was moved west of the river in 1594, where a small building was constructed for it. Allassembly proceedings took place in this building until 1798.