Spending time surfing some sites on the Internet, we might come across some sources noting the Vikings started on June 8, 793. Common as it might be, the “fact” turns out to be not true. In fact, the precision of the Viking birthday depends on your opinion about the Viking Age. If you mean Viking birthday is their first notorious raid, then June 8, 793 was what you need. But whatever the Internet can provide us about the Viking Age, their time began before June 8, 793. And it was on June 8, 793 that the notorious Viking Lindisfarne Attack took place.
The Viking Lindisfarne Attack happened during what we know today “Dark Age”. During this time, Europe was emerging from the ashes of Rome. Charlemagne Charles the Great controlled over many parts of Europe and allegedly wanted to turn the Northmen into Christian for political purpose. The Vikings or the Men from the North finally counter-attacked to the deed of Christianization. (Of course, this is one of the theories why the Vikings raided Lindisfarne).
The Viking attack on Lindisfarne sent shivers of fear to the Kingdom of Northumbria, England, and parts of Europe. For the barbaric warriors turned out of nowhere and savagely burned down the holy places. Kingdom of Northumbria at this time required a capable warrior to rule it for the brutal neighbors from the north and the new power from the south.
But the King of Northumbria when Viking Lindisfarne Attack broke out was Aethelred I of Northumbria. Aethelred I had just returned from his exile and forcibly restored his throne. After the Viking attack, Alcuin of York – a favorite scholar of Charlemagne – wrote a letter blaming all of this punishment for the sins of Aethelred I and his nobility.
The emerge of the Northmen
A fabric and some planks of wood and they could travel across the high waves? It is just the romantic side that the media want us to see. In fact, the Vikings needed an amount of time to observe and experience the sea. Gradually, they developed their shipbuilding and seafaring skills.
But several factors contributed to the Viking emergence from the 8th century. They included the overpopulation in their Scandinavian regions, the shortage of women, and the surviving skills on the sea as well.
The Viking superior skills at navigating and shipbuilding enabled the Vikings to travel and explore more than any tribes of their time. For this, they could travel anywhere they wanted, attacking without warning. The Viking small raids quickly evolved into the military conquest.
But in 793, people had no Internet or newspaper to know what happened beyond their territory. People living in Lindisfarne did neither. The divine monastery in Lindisfarne stood in Lindisfarne peacefully. It was the center of Christianity of Northumbria at the time. Maybe because of the holiness that people believed in this plot of land, they thought no external or internal force could harm Lindisfarne. But they mistakenly ruled out the wild pagan warriors from the North.
It remains a mystery whether the Vikings attacked Lindisfarne by luck or with good information about this place. Because they happened to attack on the place full of treasure and most importantly undefended.
A very vivid account of the Viking Lindisfarne attack appeared in the Chronicle of Anglo-Saxon:
793 AD. This year came dreadful fore-warnings over the land of the Northumbrians, terrifying the people most woefully: these were immense sheets of light rushing through the air, and whirlwinds, and fiery dragons flying across the firmament. These tremendous tokens were soon followed by a great famine: and not long after, on the sixth day before the ides of January in the same year, the harrowing inroads of heathen men made lamentable havoc in the church of God in Holy-island, by rapine and slaughter.
For the geographic position of the monastery, the Vikings must have found it easy to raid the place. The monks were no match to the mighty warriors from the North though.
Generally, 8 June 793 marked the first notorious pillaging action of the Vikings. It suggested the Viking Age was looming large on the horizon and the fear would continue across Europe.