Viking Art Timeline

Viking Art Timeline

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  • c. 790 - c. 880

    Style E (also 'Oseberg' or 'Broa' style) of the Scandinavian animal ornamentation styles flourished between the late 8th- and late 9th century CE.

  • c. 1100

  • c. 850 - c. 990

    The Borre Style of the Viking Age animal ornamentation styles flourished between c. 850 and the late 10th century CE.

  • c. 890 - c. 990

    The Jelling Style, a Viking Age animal ornamentation style, cropped up just before 900 CE and was in vogue until the end of the 10th century CE.

  • c. 950 - c. 1000

    The Mammen Style, a Scandinavian animal ornamentation style, flourished in this period.

  • c. 990 - c. 1050

    The Ringerike Style, a Scandinavian animal ornamentation style, flourished in this period.

  • c. 1040 - c. 1100

    The Urnes style, the last of the Viking Age animal ornamentation styles, flourished in this period and even extended into the 12th century CE in certain locations.

15 Awesome Viking Themed Projects

Have you been watching the TV show Vikings on television lately and it’s making you feel in touch enough with your inner warrior to try and teach your kids about viking history and culture? Perhaps your kids just started learning about vikings in school or became really intrigued by the time period after they saw the movie How to train Your Dragon? Either way, we’re a little bit obsessed with viking themed crafts right now and we’re also pleasantly surprised by how many cool viking themed crafting tutorials are out there to help us indulge that interest!

Check out these 15 DIY projects that will make you and your kids really feel like viking warriors by the time you’re finished.

1. Cereal box viking helmet

What better way to really enjoy your crafting process than to upcycle something while you’re at it? Kix Cereal happens to agree! They’ll show you how to turn regular cardboard pieces from an ordinary cereal box into a mock viking helmet that’s perfect for sailing a pretend longboat.

2. Juice carton viking ship

Are you fresh out of empty cereal boxes but you’re still love to get your kids crafting with readily available kitchen supplies? Then grab your nearest empty juice carton instead! We adore this easily made longboat by Happy Brown House because the juice carton does all the hard work by giving you the shape and you can simply help your kids embellish their boat however they please!

3. Water bottle viking boat

Do you like the idea of helping your kids make their own viking longboat but you’d prefer to help them make one that will actually float, rather than getting soggy and sinking like the one above would? Then try following in Mama’s Kram‘s foosteps and making he base of your boat out of empty plastic water bottles instead!

4. Authentic viking bread recipe

Not every viking related DIY project has to be and artsy craftsy one meant for little kids. Believe it or not, there are still many age old viking recipes kicking around that will let you play viking in the kitchen too, whether your kids are old enough to help you or not. Check out this authentic recipe for viking bread on Raising Lifelong Learners.

5. Viking brooches

Have you always loved the iron, copper, and bronze jewelry that you’ve seen in pictures of vikings but you’ve never seen anything similar in modern, mainstream stores? Try making your own instead! You don’t have to break the bank to make novelty viking jewelry simple use some tinfoil, copper wiring, and rhinestones to make the rune-like markings, just like Angelic Scalliwags did here.

6. Viking runestone

Speaking of viking runes, have you ever looked up the language and markings and investigated what your favourite quote or the names of your loved ones might look like? Well, Home School Days suggests using modeling clay to scratch the symbols onto the surface and create a runestone just like you might have found in viking villages thousands of years ago.

7. DIY viking Kubb set

Historical accounts of daily viking society have taught us about a game called Kubb. If you ask us, this will be one of the most interesting viking crafts of all to your kids because it’s an interactive one that they can actually play with after, and they’ll learn from doing so. Check out how Sustainable Living Projects made this authentic Kubb set out of three short wooden blocks and five sharpened sticks.

8. DIY aged viking map

Maybe your kids are so intent on playing viking that they’re been begging you to help make them props for a while now, but you’re ready to go all out and really give them the full “viking experience”? Then they’re going to need a map for going on voyages! Check out how Angelic Scalliwags made this “authentic” viking map from modern graphing paper!

9. Easy viking lunch

Have you and your kids been making viking crafts all day and now it’s time for lunch, but they’re just not ready for a break from all the themed excitement yet? Then make sure lunch follows suit! We love the way Happy Brown House shaped the top of the sandwich, gave it banana horns, and used raisins and pretzels for some detail in order to make an awesome little viking helmet meal.

10.Leather iron age shoes

Perhaps you’re actually the one with the viking intrigue, rather than your kids, and you’re looking to make yourself a DIY craft that you might actually use and feel rather proud of? Then we definitely suggest these gathered leather shoes that are actually an accurate representation of what women would have worn in the Iron Ages when vikings ruled. Get the pattern for creating your own pair of leather shoes from Earth and Living.

11. Cardboard viking shield

Did your kids love their cereal box helmets so much that they’re back and begging you for more easy viking gear that won’t take long to make? Then grab the next closest cereal box and get to work on this adorable little cardboard viking shield! Kix Cereal shows you how it’s made.

12. Painted paper vikings

Sometimes you just can’t beat a little bit of classic paint and paper crafting time! Just because you’ve handed your kids standard painting supplies, however, doesn’t mean they can’t still incorporate their love of viking stories into their arts and crafting time. Check out these hilarious little painted vikings on Painted Paper Art.

13. Viking hat cake

Maybe your kids love vikings so much that they actually asked you to throw them a viking themed birthday party? Well, if you ask us, we think that sounds like a great idea! We’re also glad to report that Bombshell Bling has you covered when it comes to the party cake because they’ve already made a cake design that looks like a classic horned viking’s helmet!

14. Backyard viking play tent

Have you and your kids just finished reading about viking shelters and homesteads, talking at length about how they built their homes on the road as they went off to grand expeditions throughout the lands? Well, then we think they’ll pretty excited to read about how Adventure in a Box made this gorgeous viking tent in their backyard and then outlined the process so that you can make one too!

15. Clothespin dragon

Okay, okay. There’s no real historical or scientific fact confirming that vikings actually had dragons that they battled or tamed and flew around on. The dragons were, however, a symbol of power and success in viking society, so we figured we’d be safe putting at least one viking themed craft on this list! This adorable little dragon is actually made from a clothespin and some construction paper, which we think is fantastic.(found on Kix Cereal )

Do you know someone who loves Viking era things as much as we do? Share this post with them for a little bit of crafting inspiration!

Viking Timeline The History of The Vikings Mini Poster 40cm x 60cm (16" x 24")

Viking History Mini Poster: This brilliant glossy poster shows with the help of simple maps, drawings and graphics the history of the fearsome Vikings who originated from Scandinavia and invaded Europe and beyond in search for better land from AD 793. With the help of this informative poster you can learn about Viking Gods, Warriors, Myths and even learn how to write using Runes which were used to label household items and keep records. Inspire the historians amongst you with this riveting poster up on your wall.

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Ottonian art, an introduction

After Charlemagne’s legacy had begun to die out, the warlike tribes in what is now Germany (then Saxony) banded together to elect a king from among their nobility. In 919 C.E., they chose Henry the Liudolfing, the son of a high-ranking duke, a brilliant military strategist and a well-respected leader. Henry, dubbed “the Fowler” because of his hobby of bird hunting, led the Saxon armies to a number of decisive victories against the Magyars and the Danes. These newly secured borders ushered in a period of immense prosperity and artistic productivity for the Saxon empire.

Detail, Otto I presenting the Cathedral of Magdeburg, 962–968, Ottonian, from the Cathedral of Magdeburg, probably made in Milan, northern Italy (The Metropolitan Museum of Art). On this ivory, Otto presents a symbolic model of the church to Christ for his blessing. As a humble servant, Otto is depicted smaller than the company of patron saints.

Henry’s son Otto I (who became emperor in 962) lends his name to the “Ottonian” period. He forged an important alliance with the Pope, which allowed him to be crowned the first official Holy Roman Emperor since 924. This contact with Rome was extremely important to Ottonian artistic development, since each Ottonian king was determined to define himself as a Roman Emperor in the style of Constantine and Charlemagne. This meant perpetuating a highly intellectual court and creating an extensive artistic legacy.

Ottonian art takes a number of traditional medieval forms, including elegantly illuminated manuscripts, lavish metalwork, intricate carving, and Romanesque churches and cathedrals. Perhaps the most famous of the Ottonian artistic innovations is the Saxon Romanesque architecture style, which is marked by a careful attention to balance and mathematical harmony. This focus on geometry is based on the texts de Arithmatica and Ars Geometriae by the 6th century philosopher Boethius. The Ottonians held mathematical sciences in high regard and this is reflected in many of their artistic productions.

The illuminated manuscripts produced by Ottonian “scriptoria,” or monastery painting and writing schools, provide documentation of both Ottonian religious and political customs and the stylistic preferences of the period. Manuscripts were most often produced of religious texts, and usually included a dedication portrait commemorating the book’s creation. The royal or religious donor is usually shown presenting the book to the saint of his or her choice.

Uta Codex (Uta Presents the Codex to Mary), c. 1020, Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm. 13601, f. 2, recto (digitized)

Here we see a powerful abbess, Uta, presenting her codex to St. Mary. Many manuscripts also included a page depicting the artist or scribe of the work, acknowledging that the production of a book required not only money but also artistic labor.

Hillinus Codex (Hillinus Presents the Codex to St. Peter), c.1020, Cologne Dombibliothek, folio 16, verso, manuscript 12 (digitized)

In the Hillinus Codex, a monk presents the codex that he has written or painted (or both!) to St. Peter. The work of the artist and scribe were often one and the same, as can be seen in many of the fantastic decorated initials that begin books or chapters in Ottonian Manuscripts. As you can see from the dedication pictures, the manuscripts in question are often depicted as they were frequently displayed, that is with the text securely enclosed between lavish metal covers.

Ottonian metalwork took many forms, but one of the most common productions was bejeweled book covers for their precious manuscripts. This cover is one of the most expensive that survives it includes not only numerous jewels, but an ivory carving of the death of the Virgin Mary.

Presentation of Christ, Bronze doors, 1015, commissioned by Bishop Bernward for Saint Michael’s, Hildesheim (Germany) (photo: Holly Hayes, by permission)

On a larger scale, clerics like Bernward of Hildesheim cast his 15-foot doors depicting the fall and redemption of mankind out of single pieces of bronze (see the video in this tutorial). This was an enormous undertaking, and the process was so complex that it would not be replicated until the Renaissance.

For a modern viewer, Ottonian art can be a little difficult to understand. The depictions of people and places don’t conform to a naturalistic style, and the symbolism is often obscure. When you look at Ottonian art, keep in mind that the aim for these artists was not to create something that looked “realistic,” but rather to convey abstract concepts, many of which are deeply philosophical in nature. The focus on symbolism can also be one of the most fascinating aspects of studying Ottonian art, since you can depend on each part of the compositions to mean something specific. The more time you spend on each composition, the more rewarding discoveries emerge.

8 Keel

Roman and Celtic designs provided the bases for the earliest Viking ships. These vessels were propelled by oars rather than paddles. In choppy waters, such ships tended to capsize. They were also slow, so trips were usually brief and followed the course of the shoreline.

During the eighth century, a Viking invention revolutionized shipbuilding and maritime voyaging. The keel gave stability to Viking ships so that they became seaworthy. It also became a base to secure the mast. Instead of relying on oarsmen to power the ship, a huge sail of up to 245 meters (800 ft) was added as an important propulsion method. [3]

With the keel, Vikings were no longer limited to short forays along the shore. They were able to carry food, timber, and animals as cargo across distances of 6,400 kilometers (4,000 mi) in the Atlantic Ocean.

Viking Art Timeline - History

And how they impinge upon modern New Zealand

Uncover the Ancients in New Zealand

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Revisit Ancient Celtic / Viking New Zealand (?).

Investigate the controversial subject of anomalies in New Zealand . New Zealand has a deliberately suppressed pre-Maori, pre-Taupo eruption history. Authorities have jealously hidden our pre-history. Evidence that contradicts conventional historical attitudes which are essentially that NZ has no pre-Maori human history is deliberately hidden, ignored or destroyed.

Maori secrecy aided by DOC and our National Archivists confound, obstruct and generally set about to prevent investigation. Maori spiritualist values, tapu, secret folk lore and general obstructions under the guise of cultural sensitivity are used to prevent investigations on land and in national archives.

More recent, unsavoury Maori history is being swept aside and forced into oblivion by socially engineered pro-Maori historical cleansing. Take the history of the Mori-ori. A pre-Maori people butchered and eaten into near extinction, as well as through forced integration by such means as rape and slavery. Oh yes didn't you realise, Maoris had slaves, yet were never themselves enslaved by the European. Maori slaves also provided meat and sustenance and they didn't necessarily have to die or be cooked prior to being consumed! Yes it did happen. Recalling such events it puts Maori history in a distinctly invidious position, but it is merely past history now. Anyway history is being cleansed by reclassifying Mori-ori as just another Maori tribe. Still a pacifist race was harried and eaten out of existence, however you look at it.

The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 at the request of Maori chiefs and Europeans who feared for the continued existence of the tribes, sub-tribes, extended and immediate families (iwi, hapu and whanau) in the face of the Maori cannibal raiding parties, (and also from the growing interest of the French), to provide just cause for the British Crown to take control of a serious problem facing everyone in NZ. Maori warriors had been rampaging through the country armed with muskets and were destroying communities and forcing tribes to resettle in other areas of the country. This was displacement of Maori by Maori, not at this stage of Maori by the British - this did happen in time but there were huge differences. Land confiscation is totally different to stealing land from people you conquer and eat!

The Maori warriors not only displaced other tribal communities, they enslaved them. This enslavement was even more grotesque than whatever the American Negro slaves had to endure. Do you ever recall reading where American cotton growers forced their negro slaves to do a full days work, and then sat down to consume their slaves as the main menu item for the evening meal. and make the others slaves watch as they worked their way through them. This is exactly what the Maori did to slaves and prisoners. The Maori warriors went on to murder and consume thousands of their own folk, sometimes even kinfolk! and often any Europeans caught up in their way as well. You can be assured this is no exaggeration. Often the victims were not dead before being carved up and consumed. Imagine rolling around on the ground in agony with one buttock, or maybe the muscles of your arm sliced off, and seeing someone eating it in front of you. That's right they didn't necessarily bother to wait and cook it. Don't think they used a nice sharp knife either. A piece of half blunt sea shell was quite adequate, or a flake of obsidian if you were more fortunate.

The existing predicament of past cannibal victims.
Note the caved in craniums and split and broken leg bones that gave access to bone marrow.

A major consideration is that the Maori problem today is not at all related to the European colonisation but to the gross excesses of their own actions prior to European colonisation. We are only just entering the seventh generation of Maori since their appallingly and disgusting cannibalistic excesses. It takes generations for the curses and taint of such to be worked out of the soul of the people. Curiously one particularly vocal anti-European Maori belongs to one tribal group who perpetrated the heinous cannibalistic excursion to the Chatham Islands. Is this a case of trying to pass on the cannibal curses to the innocent European settler descendants? It doesn't work that way.

The cannibal descendants need to claim forgiveness of their kind and change their total attitudes to life and living, and join the modern world as working contributors. They need to accept what happened was in the past and to throw aside all the Maoritanga associated with revenge and counter settlement. Europeans are not to blame for Maori's self imposed predicament. Besides most of the Maori today are only people who like think they are Maori because they have the option of legally using that status in a racist and biased manner. There are many Maori who have phycologically moved on and become part of modern society very successfully - they are now New Zealanders first, and in many cases even Australian, and enjoy their Maori heritage just as other folk enjoy their Welsh, Scottish, Irish, English, Dutch, French, German or whatever heritage. These cultural identities add colour and identity to the people that use thenm for social and family events but they doen't convery any special status or preferential treatment. There are many people who could call themselves Maori but choose not to advantage themselves of the racist and preferential advantages and accept themselves as just ordinary New Zealanders.

In the 1950's a Maori guide at the Tarawera buried village, (buried by the volcanic eruption of Mt. Tarawera) used to tell of how parents had to watch out for young toddlers around the pa (village) lest they stray too close to the whare (hut) of an old cannibal warrior and be killed and cooked in the umu (oven), before anyone could stop it.
Maori also practised infanticide*, and the young were exceptional tender morsels. Terrible, but read the old European folk tales. - Jack and the Bean Stalk, and Hansel and Gretel among others. Ours is not to condem the Maori (or should this be the part-Maori who now masquerade as Maori). None of us even countenanced these aspects of Maori life as affecting us, anymore than the characters of the European folk tales just mentioned. But the darkness is upon the Maori. New Zealanders need to pray for their release from the curses and bondages of Maoritanga and cannibalism because indirectly it is starting affecting our whole nation as the acursed endeavour to make others pay for their affliction.
*Infanticide is the killing of an unwanted baby. Is bashing a child to death simply another form of infanticide? Indeed, is not abortion really just infanticide as well? Both are the termination of the life of an unwanted human baby before it causes the inconventience of raising it in this society.

Maori are not the only peoples to have been cannibals, or to have decimated earlier peoples settled in a conquered land. The Maori of today are really NOT the race of Maori that were here at the time the modern Celtic/European arrived. Their genes have changed for all time due to intermarriage and significant assimilation within the modern New Zealand population mix.

One way to counter the modern political bias for the subjugation of our current Celtic, Viking and European New Zealand heritage, is to have an open, impartial, honest and total examination of ALL historical artifacts without imposing obstructionist pre-conceptions and mythologies. The current official attitudes are as bad as those held in Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany. Is that the aim of the resurgent Maori New Zealand? The Treaty of Waitangi, the national art museum Te Papa, the special committees set up to promote Maori with public funding. the list can go on and on.

We already have redefinition and renaming of features, regions and social customs with substantial funding stolen from our own pockets. What has happened to the thousands being spent by NZ Post* to rename all towns, streets etc with Maori names under the guise of equal opportunity and total bi-lingualism? While there is nothing wrong with Maori names for Maori communities and places, the prima face reason has been the assumption all features only ever had Maori names. Now there are real grounds for doubt about this. In a truly bi-cultural nation Mt Egmont would be equally able to be referred to by it's European name or it's Maori name, Taranaki. Not so in modern NZ. Use of the term Mt Egmont is considered culturally insensitive. Only Taranaki is permitted when referring to it. People are too scared (or complacent) to question this for fear of being insensitive or racist. Which is the racist attitude? What was it called by the pre-Maori populations and explorers? The term "Tara" also has celtic roots. Perhaps Taranaki is not originally a Maori name afterall? (* NZ Post is apparently no longer doing this, it may have been taken over by another agency).

To provoke further thought about NZ's pre-history.. and remember when students at school were once told NZ had no dinosaur history. Now there are books written about NZ's own dinosaurs. Delve into anything that may indicate or increase recognition of NZ's pre-Maori human settlement. Record it, write about it, photograph it, survey it (as in making written recorded land surveys/maps). Disperse this knowledge widely BEFORE official Government departments and DOC, Environment or Culture ministries can subvert such knowledge and destroy, obscure, reclassify or hide the evidence.

You don't believe this happens?! Check out . Taylor's embargo

Then when you are walking, tramping, talking, or listening, keep an eye on or an ear out for the unusual, the taken for granted. Think about objects in and on the land with a new perspective. Learn more about the cultures here to-day, the cultures of recent history and those of long ago. The world is a big place. Man has always wandered over mountain and glen, moor and plain, hill and valley, river, ocean and sea, island and continent. We have always used the resources available to us within the means of our current technologies and we has always pushed the edge of understanding, endeavour, and investigation to the limit. It is NATURAL to do so, and we were made able to do so by design. Some people become enslaved by custom and superstition, by a lack of learning and education, inquisitiveness and loss of perception so that they reject open learning and truth and honesty. Their culture stagnates in rigid unremitting tradition. Fear, secrecy, deceit, deception and untruths multiply and gain control. In simple terms they go to the Devil, where darkness, lies, fear and retribution and apathy reign supreme. Question: Are we headed into another Dark Age? Or would it be preferable to have open knowldege of what we find out, about NZ's past?

What did the Viking believe in as a religion?

The Vikings had their own belief system, Norse mythology, prior to Christianisation. Norse mythology centered on gods such as Odin, Thor, Loki and Frey. Dying in battle was the most prestigious way to depart life. This would guarantee you a seat in Valhalla, an enormous hall ruled by Odin, where fantastic banquets were held each night and preparations made to help Odin in the apocalyptic battles preceding Ragnarok (the end of the world). By the tenth and eleventh centuries, most if not all of the Norsemen had converted to Christianity, but held on to many of their pagan beliefs until late into the medieval period.

Martin Heiberg - Copenhagen Media Center

Vikings and Religion

The Viking Age (793-1066) began with sacking monasteries but ended with Viking kings becoming champions of the Church. This change is startling, especially because the struggle between the Vikings and the rest of Europe was so often framed as the battle between Heathenry and Christendom. But how much of a shift was it really, and why did it happen? This article will briefly look at the relationship between the Vikings and Christianity, and some of the impacts the two forces had on each other.

Norse Attitudes Towards Faith and Viking Raids on Monasteries

The early Norse had a profoundly ingrained ethos that permeated every facet of their lives and can still be clearly mapped out in the study of their actions – yet they did not even have a word in their language for ‘religion.' Belief in their gods was just an accepted fact for the early Vikings, and their spiritual rituals were usually conducted by their community leaders. There were a small number of priests, seers, shaman, and other professional spiritualists, but these were rare specialists rather than the everyday ministers of faith. Great Pagan temples, like the one Adam of Bremen described in Uppsala, Sweden, were occasional destinations of homage, but much of the regular worship took place outdoors in groves or other natural sites.

In short, the Norse did not have an organized religion, the way Christians, Muslims, or Jews did, and they were puzzled by these religions when they encountered them.

Because the Norse did not have an organized religion and had no concept of sin and salvation, they never made any real attempt to proselytize or spread their faith. There were a few instances of them turning Christian shrines into Pagan ones, but these were usually part of a broader military strategy. Doubtlessly, some people who were taken by the Vikings or whose lands fell under their control adopted the Norse faith, but evidence shows the majority did not. Similarly, the distressing cruelty some Vikings inflicted on Christian priests, monks, and nuns were also military "shock and awe" or merely the depravity of individual raiders.

For the people of Early Medieval Europe, monasteries and abbeys were not just places were monks chanted and prayed. They were the centers of learning, music, and culture. Kings and nobles patronized them to display their personal riches, largess, and piety and great wealth aggregated there. But this wealth was usually poorly-defended, and so these centers became the prime targets of Viking raids.

Vikings even attacked their own religious centers. In the Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok and His Sons , Ivar and his brothers sack a Pagan shrine for no other reason than it will bring them riches and fame. By the late-10 th and 11 th centuries, Christian Vikings would still sometimes attack monasteries, and non-Norse Christian kings would plunder Christian centers sponsored by Norse leaders. Even for some non-Norse combatants in this violent age, churches and monasteries began to be seen as soft-target assets of a competitor rather than sacrosanct houses of God.

So, what we see from a close examination of the sources is that for most Vikings the extensive attacks on religious sites was not about promoting their faith or suppressing another. It was about the money.

Christian Views of Viking Invasions

Most of our non-Norse primary sources on the Vikings were written by churchmen and contained a religious perspective of the events. While the Norse believed that fate governed all things, Medieval Christians believed that God governed all things. Therefore, it was a tremendous blow when the seemingly-invincible Vikings desecrated churches with impunity. Many people concluded that God was using the Vikings to punish Christendom for some as-yet-unidentified sin.

In the military and material sense, however, this perspective did not yield immediate benefits. Every Viking victory undermined confidence. Instead of trying to learn from strategic mistakes and get better at fighting the fierce northerners, some Christian leaders concluded they needed to pray and supplicate more – and then became increasingly depressed when they lost the next battle anyway. Thus, the Vikings achieved a strong psychological edge over the armies they were fighting, and it was not until the Christians began racking up some victories (almost a generation later) that they could clear their head and start to solve their Viking problem.

Early Missionaries to Scandinavia

Carolingian rulers sent several missionary envoys to Scandinavia (especially Denmark) starting in the 9 th century. While it must have been a daunting task to bring Christianity to the fierce Viking homelands, these missionaries were usually received peacefully.

However, the missionaries did face the significant obstacle of language. While part of the same linguistic family as other Germanic tongues, Old Norse had changed dramatically over the past few centuries. It was difficult for the missionaries to become fluent enough to meet the poetic standards the Vikings valued. Ultimately, it was not to be the missionaries that converted Scandinavia. It was to be the Vikings themselves.

Changing Norse Attitudes Towards Christianity

Gradually, the disdain for Christianity the early Vikings held shifted. One of the reasons for this was that Christian forces began to win battles and earn the respect of their Viking enemies. Men like Alfred the Great in Britain, King Constantine in Scotland, and Mael Sechnaill in Ireland devised strategies that broke the spell of Viking invincibility.

Simultaneously, some churchmen – disgusted with their royal patrons’ inability to defend them – started leading forces themselves. Some of these bishops and abbots were of noble birth and so had military training, and they could be charismatic and successful leaders. Monasteries built towers (like the one at Glendalough, Ireland) to stave off Viking attacks, and men like Wessex’s Bishop Heahmund fought and died heroically in battle. The Vikings noticed this, and it helped them to see the Christian god as a war god they could better appreciate. This militant response to Viking invasions was to have far-reaching (and often negative) effects on the Church in the Middle Ages and is one reason why a chess board has bishops as powerful pieces.

But of all the things the Vikings encountered, what finally changed their mind about Christianity the most was contact with the Byzantine Empire. Starting in the 9 th century, Swedish Vikings and the hybrid Kievan Rus began to fight with – and eventually for – Constantinople (now Istanbul in modern-day Turkey).

Constantinople was by-far the most magnificent city the northerners had ever seen. It was opulently wealthy, and the city alone had more people living there than all of Sweden. It was also the first naval power the Vikings encountered that was able to stand up to them. The Heimskringla sums up the Viking impression of “the Great City” when – upon entering the gates for the first time – Harald Hardrada tells his followers to close their gaping mouths lest they look like fools.

In the 10 th century, Byzantine Emperor Basil II “the Bulgar Slayer” instituted the Varangian Guard – an elite unit of 6000 ax-wielding Vikings. While initially made up of Swedes and some Rus, the Varangian Guard soon attracted Norse warriors from all over the Viking world. Brave men of ability would distinguish their careers in the service of the Christian emperors for the tremendous prestige, glory, and wealth it guaranteed. These men did not only return home with cash and stories to tell, but with a broader perspective of the world.

Forced Baptism and Top-Down Conversion

On the eve of the Viking Age, the Frankish Emperor Charlemagne forced multitudes of Pagan Saxons in mainland Europe to convert at sword point. Sacred oak groves were cut down, and those who resisted were allegedly massacred. The kings of Christendom were rarely to be in the position to do the same to the Vikings.

Baptism was increasingly demanded of the leaders of defeated Viking armies, though. For example, Alfred the Great required the Danish Sea King, Guthrum, to be baptized along with about 30 of his jarls. One of these jarls reportedly joked that this would be the twentieth time he was baptized, and then complained that the white baptismal garment was not up to his usual quality. His attitude was probably typical.

Kings like Alfred were less concerned with the state of the Vikings’ souls and more concerned with trying to find some means of enforcing peace. It was hoped that inclusion in the Church might be one more way to exert some influence – however small. The Christian kings also had to navigate their own political realities, as many of their nobles and bishops may have been critical of making treaties with “the heathens.” Viking baptisms removed some of this pressure.

Overall, the experiment seemed to work. While the English could never entirely count on Guthrum, he did keep the peace after his baptism. Considering he had been a model of Viking cunning before baptism, one can only conclude that there was something about Guthrum’s position and new-found legitimacy that the Dane liked. Similarly, the great Viking, Rollo, accepted baptism to claim Normandy from the Frankish Emperor, Charles the Simple, and used his new-found ties with the Church to strengthen and advance his realm.

Ironically, more Norse would be forced into Christian conversion by Vikings than by the kings of Christendom. From the late-tenth century onward, Norse Viking kings like Harald Gormsson (aka Harald Bluetooth), Olaf Tryggvason, Olaf the Stout (“Saint Olaf”), and Magnus the Good all believed in Christianity’s benefits for national cohesion.

In the east, Vladamir the Great of the Viking-hybrid Kievan Rus came to the same conclusion. Supplanting their native faith with Christianity (sometimes by arms) and aligning themselves with Rome or Constantinople became key components of their empire-building.

Eventually, even Iceland would see Christianization as just “keeping up with the times,” and their parliament (the Althing ) would vote to make Iceland Christian in the year 1000.

Bottom-up Conversion

When the Vikings raided, they took everything of value that they could carry, including people. Vikings were notorious slavers. Some of these captives were sold far away in the teeming slave markets of the booming Islamic east. Others they kept for themselves.

The Vikings also began staying longer and longer into the lands they raided and often intermarried with the people they met there. For example, the Irish annals mention groups of Norse-Irish as early as the 840s. Recent DNA research has revealed that about 25% of the males and 50% of the females of the founding population of Iceland (i.e., 870-930) were Irish or Scottish.

This all meant that Norse households became increasingly mixed in terms of faith. The Icelandic sagas reflect this. One such example is found in Erik the Red’s Saga . In it, Leif Erikson converts his mother to Christianity, and she subsequently refuses to sleep with her husband, Erik, until he converts, too. The skald adds wryly, “ this was a great trial to his temper .”

The sagas show that many times these religiously-heterogeneous households were as happy and productive as need-be, while other times the clash of faiths could lead to big problems. In the Greenlander’s Saga, one of the expeditions to America breaks up because of religious strife amidst the parties, and in the Saga of Burnt Njal , two inseparable brothers fight against each other at the Battle of Clontarf, split along religious lines.

How Were Vikings Different After Becoming Christian?

Though the Viking Age would end and the Norse warrior ethos eventually cool as Scandinavia became more like the rest of Europe, the Christian Vikings of the 10 th and 11 th century did not behave much differently than their Pagan counterparts. They were still extraordinarily warlike and about as likely to plunder, take slaves, have multiple wives, engage in blood feuds, and display other typical features of Vikings anywhere. They were just as daring in exploration. Some of the most savage, intrepid, and successful Vikings – like Harald Hardrada, Amlaib Cuaran, Sytric Silkenbeard, Leif Erikson, and Cnut the Great – were Christians by choice.

Viking values of total commitment in battle and placing glory over life itself also did not change. Clear evidence of this can be found in the Battle of Clontarf (Ireland, 1014) and in the Battle of Stamford Bridge, (England, 1066) in which mixed-faith Viking armies chose annihilation rather than dishonor and suffered casualty rates of 80-90 percent. These battles, and the others like them, showed that for the Vikings it did not really matter whether they were going to Heaven or Valhalla.

The Norse Conversion Experience: Pluralism, Syncretization, Replacement, and Cultural Legacy

Many early Viking Christians seem to have just incorporated Christ into their cosmology rather than completely rejecting their old ways. We find sayings in the sagas like, " On land I worship Christ, but at sea I worship Thor. " This was not apostasy – just what the pre-modern polytheistic mind considered pragmatic. Other examples of this pluralism (that is, acknowledging both religions as true in their own way) abound in archaeology, where Mjolnir (Thor’s Hammer) amulets have been found in the same graves as crosses. One archaeological dig even turned up a casting mold that could make a Mjolnir and two crosses at the same time (see photo).

There are many examples of this “Christian polytheism” in the historical record too, such as when a dying Rollo of Normandy gifted 100 pounds of gold to his local Christian churches and then hanged a hundred prisoners as sacrifices to Odin. Professor Kenneth Harl (2005) of Tulane University generalizes that “it usually took Vikings two or three generations to figure out what monotheism was.”

Hardliners in the Church tried to convince the Norse that their old gods were lesser spirits – or, basically, demons. This was a hard sell. The Norse revered their ancestors, and their ancestral gods seemed impossible to remove from their cultural identity. Over the next few hundred years, some Scandinavians would settle into this opinion, but it was not the most popular one. The idea that the old gods remain "alternative powers" (demonic or otherwise) did eventually take root in Icelandic magic, such as what one finds in the Galdrabok grimoire.

Other Norse Christians around the Viking Age and after took a different view. They held that the old ways served their purpose but that their time had passed. We see later Scandinavian Christian monks describe an early king as “ a favorite of Odin ,” without any sort of religious apology. In the view of many, the old gods had already perished in Ragnarok, and the world was reborn as the Christian world they lived in.

By the time Snorri Sturluson and other Icelanders were writing down the sagas and poetry of their ancestors, symbolic ties and Christian themes were being identified (some experts say, added ) to their old lore. For example, Odin’s son, Baldur, with his kind nature, unjust death, and glorious resurrection became allegorically associated with Jesus. As another example, crusading descendants of Vikings identified most with the Odin-like qualities of the Old Testament God. Evidence of this syncretization and culture blending remains evident in the holiday traditions, such as Christmas/Yule.

By the early 12 th century, Denmark had 2000 churches. Norway and Sweden each had about 1000. Sweden seems to have held on to Paganism the longest, due to its isolation and differences in its political transition from its neighbors. One of the tools archaeologists use to determine “thorough” Christian conversion from native religion is by looking at burial practices. Based on such findings, Scandinavia was Christian in practice by the end of the 12 th century.

The conflict of ideas between Nordic Paganism and Christianity was one of the defining features of the Viking Age. Very gradually, many of the Norse began to adopt Christianity in response to their changing conscience and expanding world view. Christianity did not end the Viking Age, or make the Vikings not be Vikings anymore. Some of the most epic and brutal battles ever fought were by Christianized Vikings. However, Christianity was recognized by both sides as one of the clearest pathways to bringing the Norse into the broader European community. Rulers of England, France, and Byzantium used it to harness the northerners’ energy while Norse kings used it to advance their drive for power and nation-building.

Christianity and inclusion in the Church, along with changing economic, military, and political circumstance made the Scandinavia of the 12 th century very different from the Scandinavia of the 9 th century. But focusing too much on this delivers an inaccurate picture. For most of the three centuries the Vikings were exploring the oceans, trading with the far corners of the earth, and fighting all comers, the Christians and Pagans amongst them were moving in and out of conflict and cooperation. Like Odin, the Vikings did not just have a fierce nature, they also had a curious one. Through both their old and new faiths, they found different ways to understand their world and different self-expression in art and action. Though the contact between the two faiths could be violent, in some ways, it could also be synergistic.

Contributing Author

David Gray Rodgers is a fire officer, college lecturer, historian, and novelist. He is the author of Usurper: A Novel of the Fall of Rome and co-author of Sons of Vikings: History, Legends, and Impact of the Viking Age.

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10th century 900-999 CE

Theirs was a sophisticated and cultured world with wonderfully tooled metal work, finely minted coins and skillful navigation systems.

One of the bloodiest battles ever fought on English soil took place at Maldon in East Anglia, as the Scottish and northern lords, shored up by the Vikings sought to destroy the Anglo Saxon King Aethelstan. His victory and the promise the pay more Danegeld to the Vikings brought them to a halt and forged a stronger England.

The Abbey of Cluny rose to become a mighty institution

The Benedictine monks, governed by the Abbey, numbered over 10,000 and became a great monastic power answerable only to the Pope. It’s reach across Europe was immense and it was declared ‘the light of the world’.

Eric the Red in a marketing ploy of some desperation.

Named the bleak land he had laid claim to ‘Greenland’ in the hope of tempting settlers there. Canny fellow because several boatloads of Vikings arrived and built a colony it is thought grew to 5,000 individuals.

And the Frankish King Charles III gave the Viking chieftan, Rollo, the area of Normandy, so long as he became a Christian.

These Vikings would within a hundred years, invade England and change the course of English history.

Our 10th century chronology and timelines are being created and curated but already via each century page you can quickly locate our collections for each 100 years of history. These evolve as we explore topical themes, but if you are looking for something you can’t see here then please feel free to contact us and request, Thanks for taking a look.

The Middle Ages

The Middle Ages were a critically important period for Western Europe. The preceding &ldquoDark Ages,&rdquo which lasted for hundreds of years after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, had been a time of chaos and poverty without strong central government to maintain order. During the period, Roman roads and water distribution systems decayed. Farming and mining all but ceased entirely. Travel was dangerous and trade routes were unused. Birth rates dropped, and disease and infections decimated undernourished human and animal populations. Western art and culture were virtually non-existent except for what was protected by Christian monks and missionaries. The clergy held fast to the traditions of reading, writing, manuscript illumination, and panel painting in order to maintain the Christian faith. Monasteries were the only remaining centers of cultural, educational, and intellectual activity, and consequently they were targets for looting. In Ireland, successive Viking and Norse invasions forced the removal of treasured books from their original locations so that they could be protected and hidden. A few surviving texts, such as the Book of Durrow, the Lindesfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells are wondrous examples of Christian art and craft.

Illuminated page from the Book of Kells, "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John," 800 A.D.

Light began to enter the Dark Ages in the late 700s, when Charlemagne, the son of a powerful warlord controlling vast lands in what is now Germany, France, Austria, Hungary, and the Netherlands, became the leader of the Franks, the largest tribe in Europe. He and his family engaged in decades of military incursions and conquests to acquire territory, and established a strong central government along with a stabilizing control structure&mdasha feudal system&mdashwhich protected the poorest of citizens through regional land-lords with private militias. This government united most of Western Europe for the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire.

In 800 A.D. Pope Leo, seeing an opportunity to reinstate a Western Church, made Charlemagne Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. But Charlemagne's goals went beyond political position. Although unable to read and write himself, he valued culture and began a series of efforts to foster it. Monk-scribes and lay craftsmen were imported into the West from the Eastern Roman Empire and began to create books. Scholars helped to establish standards for writing in Latin so that it could become the unifying formal language of the realm. New "Carolingian" art revived Roman realism and combined it with contemporary stylization. For all this, Charlemagne (Charles the Great) would be called "the Father of Europe." One of the most beautiful works of this Carolingian period was a Gospel book created by the monk Godescalc&mdashan extraordinary example of craft, art, calligraphy, and language.

Godescalc Gospels, Carolingian illuminated book (reign of Charlemagne), 782 A.D.

International trade began again in Europe during this time. Culture grew, and by the 1200s art was no longer the sole realm of the Christian clergy. Artisans formed craft guilds, opened workshops, and sought commissions from the Church, government, the nobility, and the increasingly wealthy merchant class to create frescoes, panel paintings, and illuminated prayer books. One early remarkable example is the illuminated book called the Crusader Bible (Morgan Bible) which was created in Northern France in 1240 and features action scenes complete with battle wounds being inflicted, and detailed realism including specific types of weapons, spurs, armor, and other actual garments.

When the Black Plague struck in 1348-1350, much of what had been gained was in danger of being forever lost again when one-third of Europe&rsquos population died. However, wealth became more consolidated in the hands of fewer families, and after recovery from the ravages of the disease there was a return to patronage of the arts&mdashultimately sewing the seeds for the coming Renaissance.

Illumination showing mass burial of plague victims, 1349

Prominent, wealthy patrons commissioned beautifully bound illustrated books as personal luxury possessions. The value of one book might be equal to that of a farm or vineyard because of the cost of materials and salary to the artists. The late 1300s and early 1400s were the great age of the illuminated book and the small, painted illustrations of Jean Pucell, Jean Fouquet and the Limbourg Brothers from that period showed extraordinary skill and accomplishment. Realism became a dominant approach to painting and the Limbourgs showed things never before rendered, like shadows, woodsmoke, and the steaming exhalation of breath on a cold day. This art rivalled anything being done in panel painting and frescoe, and all of it was illustrative.

The Limbourg Brothers, calendar page "February," Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, 1415

Jean Fouquet, illumination, Chevalier Hours, 1453

Watch the video: How to Draw a Viking Age Wolf Ringerike Style