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"The purpose of this blog is to generate discussions about historical issues. Students, enthusiasts, and friends are all welcome to join by reading and participating with comments. I hope to generate interest in history and offer help to the perplexed." Caleb Johnson

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Viking Attack on Lindisfarne

793 AD

In this fierce year, foreboding omens came over the land of Northumbria. There were excessive whirlwinds, lightning storms, and fiery dragons  seen flying in the sky. These signs were followed by great famine, and on January 8th the ravaging of heathen men destroyed God's church at Lindisfarne.
- The Anglo Saxon Chronicle

Lindisfarne Castle, where the old Abbey used to be.
The text above is an excerpt from a medieval chronicle describing the first major Viking raid on the English Abby of Lindisfarne. If we were there on that Summer day, what would we have seen? A monk on that day might have been working on one of his obligations at the island Abbey when a gray mass would have been noticed on the horizon. The Vikings would have lowered their sails and relied on oars for speed and surprise. If the tide were in at the time of the attack, the Abbey would have been completely cut off from the mainland and approachable from the sea on all sides. The reaction time for the monks would have been less than an hour, as Viking ships could make 8 knots in good weather. The ships could run right up to the beach with the Viking landing parties jumping into the waves and sand. Full of fury, the raiders engaged in the full scale slaughter of the inhabitants and the spoiling of their goods. Lindisfarne was a local pilgrimage site, which made it a treasure house for relics, expensive books, tithe from the diocese, and donations. In short, in was the ideal target for a Viking raid.  As for the survivors of the attack,  they were left to pick up the pieces of their ruined lives.

Viking Longboat

The attack on the Abbey of Lindisfarne sent shock waves throughout Europe and ushered in what historians now call "The Viking Age." The next hundred years or so saw the whole continent fall victim to these warriors and their ships. From Lindisfarne in England all the way to Constantinople in Asia Minor, the Vikings raided and pillaged the Christian inhabitants of Europe.

If my readers would like me to write more posts about the Vikings, please send in a comment and request a continuation in this saga of history.


  1. Yes, more about the Vikings, please.

  2. "and on January 8th the ravaging of heathen men destroyed God's church at Lindisfarne"... "If we were there on that Summer day, what would we have seen?"

    January... Summer?