lindisfarne

At the end of the 8th century the British Isles were seeing the first waves of what would soon become a tidal wave of turmoil and suffering that would significantly change the face of Europe and beyond – The Viking Expansion. A vicious attack on the monastery of Lindisfarne on the coast of Northumbria in June 793 is widely considered the beginning of the new age.

Founded in 635, the monastery in Lindisfarne was an important place in Anglo-Saxon England and the base of the Christian conversion of the northern Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms.

The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ recorded that the fateful year, the Vikings struck, was fierce, and “foreboding omens came over the land of the Northumbrians, and the wretched people shook; there were excessive whirlwinds, lightning, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the sky.” A famine followed, before the Vikings brought destruction to the island.

The small community which had built around the cult of St. Cuthbert, the founder of the priory, stood no chance against the experienced northern warriors. Alcuin, a Northumbrian Scholar at the court of Charlemagne, wrote: “Never before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race … The heathens poured out the blood of saints around the altar, and trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the streets.”

Despite the devastation the Norsemen brought over the ‘Holy Island’ that summer, the community at Lindisfarne somehow managed to survive. The religious sculptures found on the island, tell us of their times, and one such artefact is the famous Domesday stone. On one side it depicts seven warriors wielding swords and axes, while the other side is covered in the symbolic depiction of the Domesday. Despite their fears, the people of the late 8th and 9th century weren’t about to face judgement day, but they were on the brink of a new era.

To find out more about Lindisfarne, the Domesday stone and life on the British Isles in the Dark Ages, be sure to check out the ‘Story of England’ on the English Heritage website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/learn/story-of-england/dark-ages/viking-raid/