8th June 793: Vikings Attacked Lindisfarne

When raiding Lindisfarne, the Vikings burnt the church

Annual 8th June is worth a celebration for the Viking warriors. Because on this day more than 1220 years ago, the Vikings attacked Lindisfarne the Holy Island of Northumbria Kingdom. This attack caused shock waves not only to the Northumbrians but also the Christian Europeans as well.

Where is Northumbria?

Northumbria is among the four major kingdoms of the early medival England. Other kingdoms included Wessex, Mercia, and East-Anglia. These kingdoms were usually at odds in their time.

Northumbria stretched from northern part of England covering east coast and southern part of Scotland. Northumbria and Mercia often waged war against one another.

Lindisfarne was a tidal island and people called it the Holy Island. At this point, majority of Northumbrians were Christians. Being a Holy Island for Christians, this island was wealthy with treasure and gold as the tributes for their God.

Viking attacked Lindisfarne on 8th June 793

What I have mentioned above pointed to the fact that Lindisfarne of Northumbria was a perfect place for the Vikings to raid. First, Northumbria was in political turmoil all the year around. Second, Lindisfarne was rich in gold and silver. That’s not to mention this island lay perfectly to the coast where the Viking warriors could easily carry out their hit-and-run attacks.

Vikings attacked Lindisfarne of Northumbria
Vikings attacked Lindisfarne of Northumbria

The historians believed that Viking attack on Lindisfarne was the counterattack to the deed of Christianizing the Vikings by the Christians. The pressure from the Christians was so great that the North men finally picked up their weapons and fought.

Literal evidence

In this year fierce, foreboding omens came over the land of the Northumbrians, and the wretched people shook; there were excessive whirlwinds, lightning, and people saw fiery dragons flying on the sky. These signs were followed by great famine, and a little after those, that same year on 6th ides of January, the ravaging of wretched heathen men destroyed God’s church at Lindisfarne.

“Anglo-Saxon Chronicle”

The mentioned “dragons” were possibly the Midgard Serpents – Viking ships. And the Viking ships approached the land of Lindisfarne, nightmare was just about to befall Northumbria and Anglo-Saxon generally.

Viking ship was described as the flying fiery dragons in the Chronicle of Anglo Saxon
Viking ship was described as the flying fiery dragons in the Chronicle of Anglo Saxon

A monk, Simoen, described:

On the seventh of the ides of June, they reached the church of Lindisfarne, and there they miserably ravaged and pillaged everything; they trod the holy things under their polluted feet, they dug down the altars, and plundered all the treasures of the church. Some of the brethren they slew, some they carried off with them in chains, the greater number they stripped naked, insulted, and cast out of doors, and some they drowned in the sea.

“History of the Church of Durham “

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.

Alcuin – Northumbrian scholar

Both sides must have astonished at each other. Anglo-Saxons would never believe that these “pagans” could reach and raid their holy island. Meanwhile, the Vikings wouldn’t think their raid would be that easy: Lindisfarne was not only wealthy but also ill defended.

The Vikings attacked Lindisfarne, depriving this Christian place of all the treasures and brought the local there to the slave market. According to some sources, some were kept alive to teach the Vikings about their agricultural tips and general culture.

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