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First meeting in 930 AD the Icelandic parliament (the Althing) is the oldest parliament in the world. However it has not operated continuoulsy which is why the Isle of Man, Parliament, (the Tynwald) established in 979 AD is the oldest continuously sitting parliament still operating.

The Althing’s establishment, as an outdoor assembly held on the plains of Þingvellir laid the foundation for an independent national existence in Iceland.

To begin with, the Althing was a general assembly where the country’s most powerful leaders met to decide on legislation and dispense justice.

All free men could attend the assemblies, which were usually the main social event of the year and drew large crowds of farmers and their families, parties involved in legal disputes, traders, craftsmen, storytellers and travellers.

Those attending the theAlthing dwelt in temporary camps during the session. The center of the gathering was the Lögberg, or Law Rock, a rocky outcrop on which the Lawspeaker took his seat as the presiding official of the assembly. His responsibilities included reciting aloud the laws in effect at the time. It was his duty to proclaim the procedural law of Althingto those attending the assembly each year.

At the time Tynwald was established the Isle of Man was firmly part of the Nordic empire and thus Tynwald was also held on a hill with a Lawspeaker reciting the laws and so on.

In fact to this day the Manx Tynwald still meets once a year to promulgate (read) all the laws passed in its more modern building in the traditional manner. This event takes place on the 5th July each year and you can find out more about it by clicking on the link above.

So, the 5th of July (or the first Monday following if the 5th falls on a Saturday (as it does this year) or Sunday is a public holiday on the Island. Residents and tourists travel to Tynwald Hill in St. Johns where following the pageantery they can enjoy themselves in the fairground and in the exhibition tents that surround the site.

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