Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Raid on Lindisfarne

The Raid on Lindisfarne

      Today marks the anniversary of the Viking raid on the Abbey of Lindisfarne in 793.  An important ecclesiastical site found in the 630s .  While this was not the first time the “Vikings” had raided England, the destruction suffered by the Abbey is used as the beginning date of the Viking Age.  The Abbey would survive the raid, but by the time of the Dane Law was abandoned, the monks moving to Durham.  The monastery was reestablished in 1093 and flourished until the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII.


      A word on “Vikings” is in order.  It is not a reference to a people.  The Vikings would originate from what are today Denmark, Norway and Sweden.  Like almost all people of the era, they were farmers, hunters and fishermen.  They lived under a variety of petty kings and lords tied together by any number of different allegiances even as they engaged in raiding and warring against one another.  From the late 8th Century, utilizing newly developed ship technology, these peoples began to raid outward.  Hence the raids upon England and later into Northern Europe.  The “Vikings” were the men (whether women participated as “shield maidens” remains in dispute) who went on the raids.  Hence, Viking is a job description.


     Today is as well the anniversary of another book-end of the Viking Age.  On this day in 1042 Harthacnut, King of England and son of Cnut the Great, died. He was the last king of England from Denmark.  He was succeeded by Edward the Confessor, a king of English heritage.  Of course Edward’s death in 1066 would lead to turmoil over the succession, leading ultimately to the victory of William the Bastard at the Battle of Hastings (whereupon he became William the Conqueror).

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